The Weakest Button – An Open Letter to Matt Cutts, Google

Dear Matt Cutts,

I’m not sure whether you are the right recipient for this but perhaps you could pass it to whoever should receive it.

Perhaps you know instinctively which button I am talking about.  I’m Feeling Lucky.  Back in 2005, I did express my thanks to Google for the I’m Feeling Lucky button and suggested some reasons why it might still be there.  After all everyone is most complimentary on the sweet simplicity of the Classic Google Search page.

google classic search

It’s the KISS principle exemplified.

Some 2 years later, I and others were pointing out that that the I’m Feeling Lucky button is a poor use of screen real estate and it Doesn’t Work For Google since you may be losing advertising revenues.  Apparently the arguments were not cogent enough since no changes were made.

Now in 2009, given the tough times we are all experiencing in this recession, it surely is a time to have everything performing at optimal efficiency.  In that spirit, I thought someone in Google might appreciate some reflections on that Classic page.

Any redesign should not lose what is of value but should if anything give a much better user experience.  Currently the left hand button ‘Google Search’ gives the Web search as confirmed by the word at the top left of the screen.  As many know, this is more precisely defined as Universal Search since a number of search results from different databases are combined. 

If you prefer to look directly at the results of an Image Search then you can type your keywords in the search field but must then click on one of the text links at the top of the screen.  It is similar if you want to do a News Search or a Video Search.  If you want to do a BlogSearch, then you must go to ‘more’ and click on that.  A drop-down appears and you can then click on Blogs.  It’s all a bit clunky.  Thinking about what might work better for users, perhaps there is a better way.

Given that the left button has a redundant Google on there and the right button is little used, it seemed to me that a number of purposes would be served by a change in buttons.  Here below is how an alternate design might look.  The buttons shown would be ideal for the way I use Google search, but Google may know its average user might prefer some other buttons.  There is room for six, but the number could be cut down if that would work best for most users.

google classic search new version

As I said, Mr. Cutts, you may not be the right recipient for this.  However if you like this proposal, perhaps you could put a good word in for it as you forward this to the right person.

Thank you for your time.


Barry Welford

Free Web Poll

Note to my other readers

If you feel there is merit in this alternative design, then why not add a comment.  Or suggest other ways the Google Search page might be improved.  At the least, please vote in the survey to the right.  Your vote may just tip the balance.

36 thoughts on “The Weakest Button – An Open Letter to Matt Cutts, Google”

  1. Here, here Barry. Excellent suggestions but I would keep the search button as well and call it univeral search. There, we’ve figured it all out for them, now if they’ll just implement it we can move on and solve other important problems.

  2. As of this comment, all votes (albeit only 5) have been cast for your modification. I’d prefer it. If they don’t make this happen, maybe someone can get fancy with a Greasemonkey script.

  3. Im Feeling Lucky is a stupid button that can be removed, but I am not in favor of having more buttons to replace a single Search button. I only search for normal web pages all the time. I dont need Images, Videos, etc. as butons that load every time. Also I dont think Matt Cutts is the right person for this, because he writes about SEO and Google in his blog. Google does not have a good customer support system even for paying Adwords customers, you will never receive a reply if you open a query with Adwords that is important to you and its a plain bug in adwords and it is not in the known issues or help file (try changing multiple campaigns at the same time to include content network and search partners when they are search only)

  4. I do sincerely hope they take this idea forward. You have just verbalised (is that a word? vocalised didnt seem to just fit) what many people have felt including myself. I hate having to navigate to the top of the page…

  5. Similar sentinment to David temple, in certain circumstances the integration of universal search is useful particularly on product/news related searches, so the ability to search at an integrated level is certainly essential

    That said, I would suggest the ‘I feel lucky’ option has had its time, and I would suggest any usability study would suggest as much, certainly if user behavioural research recently is anything to go by..

  6. Great idea. I’m not so keen on the current universal results format… I really was a bigger fan of the 3D search. Similar, but better. I think this would make searching in Google easier, quicker and more relevant. That’s my 2c worth.

  7. Well I think the “I’m feeling lucky” button’s only real use is when performing searches like “find chuck norris”. Perhaps that is the only real reason Google have kept it – fear of Chuck! 😛

  8. I have never ever used “I’m feeling lucky” button. I mean what’s the point? It might save me 3 seconds that it’d take me to click on search and after that on the first result but it might also make lose a lot more if it takes me where I don’t want to go. And rarely the first result is the most relevant one. I’ve never understood why they’re still keeping that useless button.

  9. Man; I scrolled down to the suggested button layout and thought “of course!”

    Certainly most of my searches are “Web” / “Universal Search” but for those times I’m looking for videos, images, etc. this layout would be a lot better than:

    a) mousing up all the way to the top-left corner to click the proper link; or

    b) adding the words “youtube” or “images” in my search field

    This is perfect as it’s close AND you can tab to the correct button and hit enter (keyboard shortcuts rule! :> ).


  10. @Barry: I rarely go to google homepage nowadays. I use google from firefox search toolbar directly.

    Even if I go to homepage and search I rarely press ANY button. I would just type the keywords and press enter. I guess most google users are also doing it (unless they are new to computers). These buttons are nearly redundant and they are only used by first timers. (There are plenty of first timers).

    I’m feeling lucky can be removed but I would rather have a keyword shortcut for searching in blogs/maps etc.

  11. Good ideas.

    In addition I’d have two buttons on the search results pages

    1. Filtering results chronologically. How often have I searched for a software fix and been frustrated with results that are old. A lot of searches could be usefully filtered this way.

    2 Filtering results by location. Perhaps simply a local/global toggle or even better a way of inputing the geo area you want to use.

    There are probably other result filters that people want. What do you think?

  12. Good post. Your revised Google homepage is the kind of thing that people would pay millions for usability evangelists to come up with 🙂

  13. Overall I like the suggestion. There is one inherent challenge, you removed the word search from the button. It was the very first thing that struck me. I typically try to place myself in the average Baby Boomer position. That “Search” button is key for many of us. Add the Search label back to the primary search button and I think it would work. And yes, that I’m Feeling Lucky can be retired to the Button Boneyard. Or, if it has such sentimental value, make it viewable only to those select few in good faith. 🙂

  14. Ive been saying for years that the buttons should be something like:

    Adult / commercial / research / entertainment / public

    or some such combination that splits commercial ecommerce/sales sites from research/eductaion/resource sites.

  15. But if it wasn’t for the I’m feeling luck button you wouldn’t be able to do the following

    1) Go to google homepage
    2) type in “find chuck norris”
    3) click the im feeling lucky button


  16. Although these aren’t bad ideas for improvement. I cant help but notice that this blog has some of the most distracting and un-friendly elements I have ever seen. I mean how can you give usability advice when you have animated gifs (top), multiple search/subscribe text boxs (top right), and a kitchen sink for a footer.

    I’m not trying to bash you, your ideas, or your site – if its working for you, great. It just reminds me of the this old quote, “Who you are speaks so loudly, I cannot hear what your saying.”

  17. I can relate to what you’re saying, Bill, but I hope folk will find the content they are looking for and can blank out what is not helpful to them.

    The only feature I will defend is the ‘kitchen sink’ footer. It is only there for those who wish to scroll down and wander someone else on the website(s). More and more blogs seem to be going for these informational footers so perhaps they cater to a need for some. I find certain online newspapers have a somewhat similar appearance even ‘above the fold’ so I guess the jury is out on this one.

  18. @ Bill: Wouldn’t this be a perfect case then of “do as I say, do not do as I do” ? 😛

    @ Barry: Agreed that is one heck of a footer, but if it works.

  19. I have never, ever used such a button! After reading this article I even had to go to Google homepage and try it out to remember what it is for! Well, for me the “I am feeling lucky” is a romantic way to remember the old days when you didnt know your way through Google and customed search queries were things to come… No, i would like it to stay!

  20. I read an interview with a Google UI designer that addressed this issue (sorry I can’t seem to find it now). This individual had done extensive testing on the main search page including eyeball tracking heatmaps, click recording, and redirect referral tracking. The silly little “I’m feeling lucky” button does in fact get a modest number of clicks, but it gets a heck of a lot of eyeball time. Google’s fear was that removing this friendly-worded button would take away a little humanity from the otherwise sparse and clean page design. Having 2 buttons also assists the illusion that Google isn’t a “one trick pony” so to speak.

    I’m not sure I follow your argument that the state of the economy dictates getting rid of this button. Google is already aware that every I’m Feeling Lucky click potentially costs Google $5-$500 in adwords revenue, but they feel its presence is for the greater good of mindshare. I guess when your company’s biggest asset is the “cool factor” you need to harness that mindshare as much as possible.

  21. That certainly is what a product-driven mindset would suggest, Brian. However if you check with what people would prefer you may get a different story. Clearly the small sample voting in the survey here is not representative but 2/3 of them prefer the alternative. Other comments above have already suggested improvements to the concept so a better new design may garner even more votes.

  22. I think I still the original google page, the redesign has too much buttons for my liking 🙂 I also think the I’m feeling lucky button also give us a sense of surprise everytime we click it, its like saying surprise me google.

    Beside if its not broken don’t fix it.

  23. It´s great when you set a costumer´s site in the first position and you say to him:
    Type your keyword and press the button “I´m lucky”… it´s excellent for good SEO Companies!

    Great article!
    I´ve subscribed the feeds.

  24. I agree ditch the lucky button but then again this being google they are not really keen on listening hence absent communication channels between users and them. it a matter of time before that decision comes back to haunt them.

    yahoo though they had the market cornered look at them now.

  25. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever used the I’m Feeling Lucky button even in all the years I’ve used Google so I’d be down for any change, although based on past behavior I’ll prob just keep clicking the standard search button…

  26. I use “I’m feeling lucky” all the time.

    Try this:
    Instead of going to wikipedia to search for a page on X, type “wiki X” and hit I’m feeling lucky. It’s the fastest way!

  27. I guess everyone here are pretty heavy users of Google.

    If you remove the word “Search” newcomers (there are still newcomers!!) will have to think it through a little more. The buttons say nothing about the action. They seem like a section navigation.

    The “I’m feeling lucky” is a kinky button that transmits some fun, rush, whatever. But I have seen some people using the google input box do type the URL of the site they want instead of using the location bar. And when they do it sometime they use the I’m feeling lucky because its faster. weird but seen on site.

    If you use Google in another language you get another option section with
    O search the web O search pages written in language O search pages from language country

    That combined with all those buttons means trouble for decision making.

    Thinking on global escale of millions, or billions, of users if 10%, heck even 5%, use the “I’m feeling lucky” button that is a big enough excuse to leave it there.

    So I think basic Google should stay simple as it is.
    iGooglers could have an advanced version if it pleased them.

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