As you may have noticed, Google launched their new feature, Instant Preview, two days ago, and already the web is abuzz with discussion of what it means for businesses in general, and web design in particular. So, in the true spirit of the internet, here’s our take on what you’ll need to keep in mind about designing for Google Instant Preview.

If you haven’t seen anything about the latest Google feature, you might want to check out our earlier article, Google Instant Preview, before reading this one. If you already know all about how it works, then read on for the latest web design tips.

Web Design Principles Stay The Same

We’ve spent years now promoting the principles of effective web design, and explaining the important aspects of the practice to our readers. And we’re glad to be able to say, that the fundamentals of effective web design haven’t changed, just because Google has started showing site previews alongside search engine results.

The only difference that counts now is that it’s even more important to ensure that your site conforms to good design methodologies and principles. The reason is simple. Thanks to this new feature, people no longer have to leave the search results page to see what your site looks like.

And that means, if it doesn’t look like it’s offering what they want, they won’t be clicking on your link. In the past, they’d have to actually visit your site to decide if it was going to be useful or not. And since they were there, they might spend a few minutes scanning it, just in case.

This is no longer true, thanks to Google’s handy new feature. And that means you have to think about the way that your site will appear to potential visitors in Google’s instant preview.

Designing For Google Instant

Although we stand by our comment that the principles of good design have remained the same, there are a few things that can help you improve your image in Google’s instant preview, and make potential visitors more likely to actually enter your site.

Here are a few of them that are worth keeping in mind:

Using Larger Images

Images have always been an important part of web design. Now, you need to keep in mind the fact that the instant preview will show a much smaller version of your page than the original. That means that if you use small images on your page, they won’t be very clear in the preview snapshot. Think about making your on-site thumbnails larger, so they get more exposure in the preview.

Using Larger Fonts

The same applies with any banners or calls to action you have on your site. Because the Google preview is a (relatively) small image of your site, you’re going to want to make anything really important stand out as much as you can in it. Use a slightly larger font in your banners to make them visible in the preview.

Load Time Even More Important

We’ve mentioned before how important site load time is becoming in terms of search engine rankings, but now, if your images haven’t loaded by the time Google takes that snapshot, your preview won’t contain them. And that can make your site look bad. Make sure your page images are small enough (in kb) to load quickly.

Flash Is Now Even Worse

We’ve advised against Flash for years now, despite its popularity among some groups of web designers, for the simple reason that search engines can’t crawl Flash. Now that Google has their instant preview, we’re interested to learn that the spider that takes the snapshot can’t see Flash either. So if you have a big Flash element on your site, the preview is going to render it as a blank block, and you’ll lose all the aesthetic value that Flash can provide.

Entry Pages

Closely related to the Flash issue, because these entry pages are often built in Flash, this is another practise that we’ve opposed. Afterall, why give visitors an extra page to load and click through when they’re looking for something on your site? Now though, with people about to make extensive use of the instant preview, an entry page, and especially a Flash entry page, isn’t going to give them any information about your site at all. So why would they bother clicking through to it?

Avoid Pop-Ups

Avoid pop-ups. Especially the type of pop-ups that dim the underlying site, and then pop up to ask a question, offer a subscription, or anything else. Either the site will be dimmed when the instant preview takes its snap-shot, making your site look dull and unappealing, or the pop-up will cover the information a potential visitor might be looking for.

Web Design – Design For Your Visitors

On the whole, if you stick to our usual web design recommendations, you’ll be alright. Avoid Flash, and pop-ups, make your site visually appealing, and follow established best practice for designing your website. Make sure you’ve got content that’s relevant to your visitors, provide useful information, and Google’s instant preview can actually help you get more visitors.

If you’ve ignored all the good design advice we’ve given over the years though, then you could be losing traffic to the instant preview. Remember that the point of web design is to attract visitors to your site. That hasn’t changed. It’s just that now they can see your site, without having to visit it. So it’s more important than ever before that your site design looks good, and works well.