Google's Number One UI Mistake

Google's user interface minimalism is admirable. But there's one part of their homepage UI, downloaded millions of times per day, that leaves me scratching my head:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

They can’t remove that button now, it’s part of their branding, part of their identity. They would be no more likely to stop updating their logo with colorful playful holiday-appropriate images (the shock of all that wasted bandwidth as proxy servers everywhere have to recache it!) than they would to remove that button.

Needless to say, the connection that branding builds between the user and the service/company is important. This button and the feeling of playfulness that it reflects on google even moreso. The few extra bytes of page size and the small extra cognitive load is more than made up for the positive feelings it engenders in users.

I use the function (not the button) a lot during the day as my firefox will automatically open the ‘feeling luck’ page of a google search on any malformed urls or strings. I have never used the button itself, even when I know the page I am after is the first result.

I wish Safari had the Feeling Lucky functionality, but it doesn’t. I even considered using opendns to get that result, but gave up with that.

I also agree that they can’t remove it now.

I use it. Sort of as a bookmark. I rarely use bookmarks any more. I simply type in coding horror for example and hit I’m feeling lucky.

Google actually brought that up when they were user testing the UI a while back. (I can’t remember where I read the story) But the crux of it was, the users actually LIKE having that button there, and rated the search interface lower when it wasn’t there.

Similarly, they added the copyright notice at the:

Advertising Programs - Business Solutions - About Google

2007 Google

To the bottom of the page, because some people would look at the minimalist UI and wait. When asked why they were waiting, they said they were waiting for the rest of the page to load. Putting that “About/Copyright” line was the queue to these users that the page actually WAS all there.

I remember listening to a google staffer on a podcast a while ago, and the reason the “I feel lucky” button stays is not its click through rates, but the message it sends about google’s corporate culture.

Apparently, users felt Google was more human by having something quirky like that on the front page. It doesn’t have lots of people click on it, but it encouraged more people to click on the main “Google Search” button.

They discovered this by testing. Make no mistake, Google tests every UI option within an inch of its life. The button stays because the button tests well.

Actually, I use “I’m Feeling Lucky” all the time, except I never do it through Google.

For example, I almost always forget Markdown syntax for inline images. But since I know for sure that the first Google result for “markdown syntax” is John Grubber’s site, I type that in Firefox’s address bar and hit enter. Never fails.

But you’re right, “I’m Feeling Lucky” is useless on Google’s homepage.

Yes, everyone who reads this blog is computer literate and has been using the Internet for years, but many new computer and Internet users are getting online everyday. The branding and “this actually works” message is further pushed on these users the first few times they use Google by the existence of that button. It might be worth revisiting those kinds of superfluous and rarely used user interface features once everyone is online.

“such as SHIFT+ENTER that invoked the Lucky function”

No need for that! In FF entering something in search box == search. Entering something that doesn’t look like url into url box == feeling lucky (or something very similar - I’m not sure). When using personalized search (search history) it works better than bookmarks. You search for couple of things at first, but then just use url box when you’ve already found something before - you will be taken to correct page.
With obvious searches you don’t have to go through google results page this way. I’m 100% sure where I will end up after entering “packages ubuntu” in url box (why should I remember correct link?). Same for “opengl reference”, “asterisk bugs” (even if it’s and has ‘asterisk’ listed there only couple of times), etc.
It’s very, very, very useful after you get used to entering phrases into url box. Without search personalisation it may be less useful for developer and not a “normal user”, but haven’t checked that.

I kind of fail to understand how removing the button would be a “giant collective improvement in the default search user interface for users around the world.”… I understand that that statement may be just a play of words and therefore slightly exaggerated sounding, but honestly speaking the button is not like something that is actively distracting the user experience.

A different point of view on the button is that it actually is improving the usability of the page because Google is so good that the first hit is often the “correct” hit and by pressing the I’m feeling lucky button you’re saved waiting for the result page to load and navigating to the first link.

I can’t seem to find it at the moment, but supposedly Google did a study that showed users the home page without it, and they didn’t like it - because it wasn’t familiar anymore. They couldn’t even put their finger on it, but it felt “wrong” to them. At this point, I believe it’s just psychological back compat.

And while Google admits that fewer than 1 percent of users actually use the button, I use it all the time. There are a set of searches where I’m confident the right answer will be the first hit (like a URL I forgot, but I know what it was about), so I type “fooTABTABENTER” and I’m there. It’s actually far more useful to me than even the control+e search box, since the google interface for that still takes me to search results, and I want to get to the page, not search results that include the page.

YMMV - it’s clear from some Google searches that others have hopped up on the soapbox as well to rake Google over the coals for a button they themselves happen not to use :slight_smile:

I find it useful for when i know what the first result will show up but can’t remember the URL.(or it’s too lenghty to be worth to type it)
One example of this is when i want to look up for XHTML entities, i just put those two words and hit “i’m feeling lucky”

I never clicked on the “I’m feeling lucky” button, but I saw my mother looking for things on the web, and the father of my wife (don’t know the term in English), and they both used that button.
And 90% of the times they found what they were looking for.
I guess this is a good way to apply the mantra “Less options is better”

I have tried clicking that button a few times, but if I’m not lucky, then I’m backing up and doing the search again.

Just for fun, I did C# as my search string and click it. Took me to Wikipedia, which I like to visit, but not when I’m looking for something related to C#. The MSDN site was second, so while it was fun to see the C# page at wikipedia, I’m wouldn’t think to go there for C# info - and I wasn’t surprised when I did go there.

It’s a novel idea, but I don’t see its utility, but I don’t care whether they remove it either. Everything isn’t always about utility.

Somewhat related to this, I guess, is the idea of having as simple an interface as possible for the user. I’ve used programs and, alas, written a few that had pretty heinous interfaces. There are TONS of websites with with confusing, ugly interfaces too.

I think Apple got it right with the iPod. It isn’t perfect, but it is simple and provides an easy to use navigation mechanism - without sacrificing a bunch of utility. The perfect interface, I guess, is one where I immediately know what to do as a user. I love my iMac, but it bugs me that there are all these somewhat esoteric keyboard-click combinations and key combinations to do things. I can figure them out easily enough, but I suspect I’m not the “average” user. Back to google - I’m not sure my mom and dad would know immediately what “I’m Feeling Lucky” means on the button, and when presented with the one result, well… that might not be what they were looking for.

So it is novel, but not that useful.

sorry i do not agree with you.
google have only one home page UI, but they have to deal with all kinds of people – different type of users, let’s say basic or advanced.
I think google have realized it, so iGoogle is there.
I hope iGoogle will provide one more option such as a “I do not need I’m feeling luck’ button” check box for you, jeff, though you never feel luck. this time you are little dull

I use Slickrun (Google it :wink: ) as an entry point into Wikipedia and MSDN multiple times a day. I’ve found the most effective way of doing this is to actually fill the keywords into an ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ search that includes ‘’ or ‘’.

Also as a general go-to search, which also works if you enter most or all of the actual address. I rarely use the address bar in IE - Google really is my entry-point to the internet, even if I never see the Google page at all.

I agree with what a lot of people are saying. I rarely click on the button, but I have shortcuts that lead to the function. If I need to find out your website, I just press Alt+F2, then type “ggl: codinghorror” and I end up here. I don’t even have to open a browser and load google as a homepage.

I love having it there, myself. It always seems to give me good results for my programming needs: looking up bits of SQL syntax or XHTML attributes or classes in the Javadocs of various projects. Opening my browser (with Google as the home page), typing “spring api simplejdbctemplate” or “hibernate manual” or whatnot, and hitting tab tab enter is a heck of a lot faster than navigating through bookmarks or search results using the mouse.

Maybe this is a keyboard vs. mouse thing. People who learn to do things using the mouse are used to everything being tortuous anyway, so they don’t look to optimize things.

I still find it kind of sad most users can’t figure out the Firefox keyword functionality. I know this guy who, every time he needs to lookup a word, navigates to a dictionary site and types it in which requires lots of mouse work and page loads. Meanwhile I just type alt-d “def blah” and get the results right out since I have def as a keyword for a dictionary site search.

For those of you that haven’t seen this, it’s sort of unrelated, not really politically correct, a tiny bit out-dated (by about 4 Google homepage re-designs), but at least a little amusing:

Type “French military victories” (no quotes) into the Google search box and hit the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button.