We see to be talking about UI tests at Google all of the time but how about a test from Answers.com? From what I've heard, most people should now be seeing a "preferences" link that's been added to their home page. So what, what's the big deal. Actually, it's not only this new link but more importantly the introduction of a new feature that I'm happy to see. It has the potential to save the typical user some time and effort with little to no learning curve.
Ok, now head to the Answers.com search box. Begin entering letters into the search box. As you type, you'll notice a dropdown box that dynamically produces the titles of various entries in the Answers.com database even before you click the search button.
If one of these entries is what you're looking for, simply highlight and go directly to the entry. It's another example of a searcher identifying potential results even before they have to begin browsing a web search results page. If a user doesn't find the service useful (it's turned "on" by default) they can turn it off via the preferences page.
If this idea of getting results before clicking the search button looks and sounds familiar, it should. It's a growing trend that I've been blogging about for some time.
In September, I authored this SearchDay article about a new service called LookAhead that any webmaster can license and use on their site. Btw, the LookAhead web site has numerous demos of this technology in action.
The article also includes several of the reasons why I believe that what Answers.com is doing and what LookAhead offers any webmaster can be so useful to both the searcher and the webmaster.
Finally, Answers.com is not the first to offer this type of feature. Here are a few others that are worth a look:
+ SurfWax News Accumulator
+ WikiWax (Wikipedia fans make sure to check this out)
+ AOL Pinpoint Shopping
+ AOL Pinpoint Travel
Postscript: Word from Answers.com that the test is now over (that was quick) and everyone should now have the option to use the ""Find As You Type" feature.