In its never ending quest for the most intuitive search technology possible, Google has just released the latest tweak to its user interface: Google Instant. According to Google, it’s a new search enhancement, that lets you see results (for what Google thinks you’re searching for) as you type.

At the moment, Google Instant is only available in a few countries, but if you’d like to try it out for yourself, we’ll explain how you can test it in just a moment. First though, let’s take a quick look at what it is exactly that it does, and why.

What is Google Instant?

Essentially, Google Instant is a new system whereby Google starts displaying potential search results as soon as you type them, without you having to hit “enter” or click on the “search” button.

It’s similar in a way to the now familiar auto-suggestions that appear in a drop-down as you being typing your search query, but instead of merely suggesting potential searches, it shows the actual results, which will change as you type.

Why Google Instant?

According to Google, people type much slower than they read. Their statistics suggest that people on average require 300 milliseconds between keystrokes, but only 30 milliseconds to glance at another part of the page.

Their theory is that, by providing search results on the fly, people can save between 2 and 5 seconds on every search they make.

Since they receive billions of queries every day, Google reckons that, if everybody uses Google Instant, the world will save 11 hours of productivity every second.

What Do We Think?

Well, it’s an interesting idea. There’s no doubt that it will be useful for some people. There’s also no doubt that it will annoy a lot of people too. (I’m one of them as it happens, but that’s not important.)

The results appear quickly, and can be disorientating at first. And although it’s supposed to save us time, there have already been reports of people who say that the results appearing are distracting, and end up costing them time, instead of saving it.

As with everything else, you’ll have to choose for yourself. And if you’d like to try it out, here’s how:

Testing Google Instant

Since Google instant is only available in certain countries right now, the first thing you’ll have to do is go to the Google.com home page. To do this, go to Google, which should default to a country specific version, such as Google.co.za in South Africa.

Now that you’re on the .com page, you’ll need to log in to your Google account. (Google Instant only works for people who are logged in to Google, and even then, they have to turn it on as you’ll see below.)

Once you’re logged in to your Google account, (any Gmail account will let you log in, just click on “sign in” in the top right corner), select your preferences page from the row of links at the top.

Once you’re in your preferences, scroll down to the bottom, and find the option for Google Instant and choose the “Use Google Instant,” then save your preferences.

You might need to make one search before it kicks in, but once you have, you’ll see a small link to the right of your search box, saying “Instant is On,” with an option to drop it down and turn Instant off.

But you’ll know it’s working when you start typing into the search box, and search results appear on the page as you type.

In the next two images, you’ll see how the page changes as we type “Internet Marketing” into the search box, while logged in to Google, with Instant turned on.

In the next image, we’ve typed only “inter…” so far. See the results it’s giving?

In this final image, we’ve gotten to the “mark…” part of “internet marketing,” and the results are different than they were a second ago.

Choose Your Favourite Search

As I mentioned earlier, I’m not a big fan of the new idea. That said, some of the other folks at Net Age like it quite a bit. As with everything else, you’ll have to decide for yourself.

Why not try it out, and if you feel like it, let us know what you think by dropping us a mail at howpeoplesearch@netage.co.za. We’d love to hear your reaction to it.

(There’s no word yet on when it’ll be available for other countries, but knowing Google, it won’t be too long.)

(Oh yes…although Google has blocked “adult content” from being displayed as results by Google Instant, that doesn’t mean that some potentially slightly embarrassing results might temporarily be displayed while typing your search query. Have fun.)