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Along with the release of our new search experience, we'd like to give some background into the design team and process that went into all the changes you see. You might not immediately think of design as being a critical part of a search product, but we think it is, and we have a growing team of designers, researchers, and developers who believe it, too. We have a growing, pro-design community here at Microsoft as well (only fitting to plug Microsoft Design).
Simple and powerful. Human. Fast. These were our guiding principles for this latest version of Live Search.
Here's the nickel tour:
We wove these principles into our work on Live Search in a process that started with user research, customer feedback, and a myriad of other sources for data and learning. All disciplines got involved in sketching as a shared way to develop our ideas. With informed iteration, sketches turned into the interactions, layouts, and visual designs that fed directly into user testing, giving us a unique opportunity as designers and researchers to make truly "user-centered" decisions.
Here are some of the biggest changes you'll notice that resulted from our product design process:
Search box near results The new Live Search header and search box is slimmed down from a heavy piece of UI into sleeker, simpler elements. Bringing the search box into alignment with the results and into the body moves it closer to where users are looking and flattens out the visual bumps between it and the results.
Room to breathe on the page Something else you'll see on a large screen (lucky you!) is our centered, fixed-width page, allowing for a more thoughtful, predictable experience as richer search content and wider screens become the norm.
Crisp, clean type We've also made changes to our color and typography. Our decision to use Arial and the new color palette was based not only on our desire to improve readability and consistency, but also on rounds of testing to find the right combination.
Intuitive video search For our new video search experience, the team focused on activities and behaviors that make video search different. We focused on simplicity — cutting irrelevant pixels and text — and power — investing in enhanced preview for video — both of which contribute to the overall simple, yet powerful experience.
Health results integrated from many sources You'll see in health search that we've created a way for users to pull together health information from many different sources, digestible all in one place.
Ultimately, we think we've taken a step forward with this new product that we think will improve the overall Live Search experience. As with any design, it will evolve along with our design team, and we'll tell you more as we go. We welcome hearing your thoughts, too.
Evan Malahy, Designer, Live Search
I don't know what type of debate there's been on this in the Live Search Team, but I think that when you made the search results in a scrollable pane like the image search results, there was a good idea there.
The problems with it are the same problems with the image search; that without pages its really easy to lose your place and know where you are and, it can be slow.
I'd like to suggest the best solution for both types of search is a hybrid format, where scrolling through search results would be like scrolling through pages in a Word Document. Everything is divided into pages, and you can jump between pages, or navigate that way if you like, but you can also scroll between pages.
The scrolling offers the advantage of skipping through more results at once instead of being frustrated by having to continuously go to the next page. But the page organization allows you to jump between pages.
Brian - that's an interesting idea, combining the two models to address both user scenarios.
You get at a couple of the biggest challenges - performance and the comfort/ability to jump to a specific spot.
Thanks for the feedback and the ideas!
I have seen that Live Search has been shaped better and better recently. It is great to watch Microsoft starting to push forward in the realm of Web search. In person, I strongly believe that Microsoft could defeat Google at this realm. It is not only because of the great developers and researchers at Microsoft, but also because Microsoft has an unbeatable weapon on this realm that has rarely been thought to be a weapon---Windows.
The marriage between Live Search and Windows OS to be a WebROM could be a Google Killer. I have recently written a post briefly introduced this vision. The post is at:
Moreover, I will attend this week's interview event at Redmond. Sincerely look forward to sharing deeper thoughts with you people at Live Search.
Live Search will be the next glory of Microsoft.
I find many annoyances with Live Search which center around the fact that the interface across the Live sites is so inconsistent compared to say Google sites which are down to the minutest detail consistent, even in their Help system. Some ideas for you to improve and to understand finally that even the minute details do matter and that Google in contrust to you takes care of them:
1. At the top of the new Search page you say: Live Search, MSN and Windows Live.
Well, why these 3 links? Why do I need the MSN link? What is the difference between Live Search and Windows Live. Why do I need the Live Search link at the top anyway? Am I not already on the Live Search page, why do I need to go back to where I am? Do you mean to say Live Search Home perhaps? No idea.
Compare to Google that has no such confusing links at the top.
2. Below these links you say again: Live Search link.
Why is that? Why do you need a second link again to the page I am currently on? Is it for me to go back to Live Search in case I want to clear my search results. But if so why should it appear on the Home page?
3. Then you have search web, video, maps, etc (thanks God you didn't put MSN again there) and then you say More. Well after you click More Academic, Books and who knows what else are not included. Why?
4. What is Xrank. AAA, you mean Selebrity Rankings. Then why don't you say so? Xrank makes no sense except if I know what it is from before hand. Use descriptive names and not code names. Google used to have Froogle which is now Shopping. They learned something. Didn't you?
5. When you get search results there is a place that says: "See also: Video, Maps, etc". Why do you need to say see also? Just leave the interface as before no need to clutter it with yet another section which I need to skip over when going to results with my screen reader. It takes me another second just to go passed this stupid "See also". Please remove it and put the options "video, maps, etc" as they were on the Search home page.
6. Generally your sites are designed like by many different companies. Microsoft.com different from MSN, different from Live Search and Windows Live is yet different. Why? Please make a consistent interface!!!!!!!!!!! Now!
Every link has to be accounted for. Go to Spaces or is it Live Spaces or is it Windows Live Spaces. Agree on a name! Then check all the links there. Do they makes immediate sense? Every link needs to be accounted for. Remember that and you might succeed. And then remember "consistency" "consistency"! How many time. Don't you understand? You place links and you throw them around and your design is not clean. Look a Blogger clean and understandable. Look at Spaces. What is the difference between the "Your Space" link (or should it be "My Space" better) and the Space Home link or the Go to my space link or simply the Home link. Tooooo confusing.
Please your design across the Windows Live experience should be simple, predictable and cooooooooooooonsistent and did I say consistent!
Keep adding features while your search give bad results.
look below the same site with different domains come up #5,6,7,8,9
This is all irrelevant unless you do some marketing on TV. Hardly anyone has heard of Live Search, or knows what it is - If you show all of its innovative features on TV, you're bound to get more viewers. Microsoft's got enough money in its kitty to pay for that I think.
I have checked garys example but I could not see this problem: "look below the same site with different domains come up #5,6,7,8,9"
They were different...
First of all, the new UI is pretty. I like it, and it's much improved.
*However*, what is with my.live.com - can we get an update to this (also, with the move in URL, the 'mobile portal' beta of live.com no longer works - has this been abandoned anyway??)? The old UI, compared to the new UI, is ugly and out of place (and is still visible on other old live modules such as favourites and expo, but is glaringly obvious at my.live.com).
I think you guys have done a great job, and splitting up the search (images, video, Q&A) from Windows Live is also a good idea (and the different designs - Live Search/Windows Live make the difference obvious), but certainly an update to my.live.com is long overdue.
It looks much more streamlined now. Much easier to use, almost like Google. Thank you!
Great starting point but I agree with another commenter - there is no consistency whatsoever. It appears that each product team is competing for its own design. My suggestion is to get a team together to create sketches of every single live page, utilizing a consistent simple theme and then implement that. Also, try to do away with the ultra high tech blue orb theme - just make the pages appealing.
One other point. Please, do not advertise for Live Search yet. The product just isn't there yet. It really looks like a work in progress and will turn people off of it forever. Design something beautiful (think Apple type experience) and people will get hooked.
Interesting, I posted a blog entry about this very same thing when I saw the new my.live.com.
Aside from tech enthusiasts, nobody will know what Live Search is. Advertising really doesn't help either. Live search requires consistency and it needs to be equated with one simple idea. Google represents simple searching, no-frills.
Microsoft is just throwing random features at people without connecting them with some common idea, so nobody is going to know about Windows Live, or Live Mesh, or anything.
Thanks to everyone for the comments and the feedback. I think y'all hit on some important challenges ahead for Live Search - continuing our already great strides in relevancy and rolling our new designs out across the site.
# Yihong -
Thanks for the encouraging words about Live Search. I do think that a great asset of Microsoft is its wide range of software products, which definitely set us apart from some of the other search engines out there.
# Anon, Ali, and David -
Keep the feedback coming! I can see how some of those differences could be distracting and we in the Design team are definitely working on those kinds of challenges. As you can see we've made a lot of changes lately, so there's always going to be those bits that are just a wee bit behind--but they're are catching up fast!
Wonderful news and thank you. I have been trying to get in touch with the appropriate person at Live Search, as we have many clients feeding their product catalog data to you, but don't have a tech rep to speak to to make sure we update things properly on an ongoing basis.
Is there any one there we can contact to ensure that our clients are feeding properly to LiveSearch?
@ Oli Burgess , have you checked Live search viral videos ?
Though may be not yet on TV.
Why the Image search options such as 'Refine By', 'SafeSearch Moderate' not available for all markets?
Refine By is one of the best options available to sort out images.
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