The new ask.com
I thought I’d spend a few paragraphs on the ask.com redesign (linked above). While the search result is just about the same as the previous ask.com, with the Narrower, Broader, and Related terms being returned along with the set, the interface is significantly different.
First off, they’ve created a column on the left entirely related to your search. In there, they’ve dropped the semantic terms, the link to advanced search, and the search box. This is a great idea, since search results take up more vertical space than horizontal, so there’s still plenty of room for results in the bride of the page.
Secondly, they’ve added immediate returns on the Image, Encyclopedia, and Video results in the far right column. Something new for ask.com. This gives the page a look more of an atlas than a set of search results. Third, they’ve organized the center column so that a Best Bets result appears above the sponsored results and the result set proper.
Within the results, they bold your search term and provide a sneak peek of what the result’s web page looks like. Though I’m not entirely convinced a set of binoculars makes any sense, the functionality is welcome.
More drastically, however, is that they’ve done the entire thing using a fairly robust pageless concept. The advanced search widget appears as a layer above a ghosted background, the my stuff and options menus behave as if they were OS menu systems, and each result can be moused over and added to the “Your Stuff” section of ask.com using a little “+” icon.
There’s no evidence I can find that they’ve improved their results, however. That said, ask.com has always been — in my mind — a search engine for librarian-types: research-oriented rather than democracy-driven. A different take, but not one that is necessarily awful.
The result? Well, all of the elements of a solid result set are there: semantic (broader, narrower, related, variant) suggestions, spell-checking, best bets, and exploratory items that a user may not have thought of using (images and video). It’s a well-rounded search engine that deserves more attention than it gets.
On the flip side, while ask.com does the right thing in providing the semantically-related terms, their meta data can sometimes be off. Follow the link above, and see if you can spot the “Related Names” that aren’t necessarily something you’d expect.