Some significant changes are coming out of the Bing team, making web searching a faster and more decision-oriented task. I was happy to see the recent design changes that made search results look far less cluttered. The removal of the left-most column’s related searches and other miscellaneous links making a huge difference to readability and focus (LTR readers, I’m sure, will agree). It now appears those changes were making way for social integration on the right-hand side of the page, with light hooks into the main search results (seeing what search results your friends have read and “liked”).
The friends and activities pane now give you direct access to ask friends questions in the context of the search/task and to see who may have more information. I don’t typically visit Facebook to stroll down feed-lane, but it is a convenient way to hear opinions from friends. The extra step of going to Facebook, explicitly, to solicit that feedback is a significant usage barrier for me. Direct integration into search makes it less jarring; there’s no need to move out of context anymore to ask those same questions. It’ll probably mean I use Facebook more, albeit indirectly. 🙂
For now, I only have the cleaned-up design, but the remainder of the functionality is expected to roll out over the coming weeks.
Old and busted (left), new and improved (right).
It’s difficult to get users to switch from something that’s pretty darned good (Google) to something that’s only marginally better. The behavioural barrier is simply too high, and not worthwhile, without a big shift in either quality or purpose. It has never been enough for Bing to compete head-to-head on relevancy (although that’s crucial, too), it needed to change the search game. Let’s see if the new Bing accomplishes that.