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More than a pretty face

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:

  • Simple and powerful is about getting just enough, having information and tools when you need them, and revealing functionality without being overwhelmed.
  • Being human reminds us that all good products speak to people and we should always design for them.
  • Being fast has particular relevance to search where so much depends on rolling up the world of information to support people's countless other activities and passions.

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:

Image showing evolution of Live Search header

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


  • Evan, how about opening up Live QnA to us here in the UK, and Europe.  The revamp is fantastic, and I've found it very useful the last few days, but why not integrate it into the UK's search scope too?  And perhaps, to promote the service, feature one or two "favoured pairings" for each search term down the right hand side, after the sponsored links.

    There's a reason why Yahoo Answers is kicking ass in this area, and its not down to any design flaw at QnA or any lack of talent on your team - it's simply that there's next to no promotion (and none whatsoever outside the US).

    Great to hear that might be getting a revamp, it's long overdue (And also, did you know that the mobile beta portal is broken since the URL moves??).

  • The image search options are great!  Much nicer than the goog IMO.  I actually preferred the link buttons on top image, easier to locate.

  • @Ali, Vasudev -

    We're definitely working on rolling out our updates and features in different countries world-wide. You should see more and more things "light up" as we go, so keep checking back.

    Also, I'm glad the image search refinements are useful for everyone.  That certainly highlights what we mean by Simple and Powerful--giving users the tools they want or need without being too overwhelming.

    Thanks again to everyone for all the feedback.

  • That's great.  Thanks Evan.

    Over the last few months, Live has become my primary search engine - the new video features, and image search, and instant answers are great, and, yes, standard searches are far more relevent than they used to be, and are on par with Google.

    So, good work.

  • I don't like the separation into Windows Live, Live Search, Live Mesh and MSN. They should all be under one brand. Is Live the brand name? Well, no since Windows Live and Office Live show that Windows and Office, and not Live are the main brand names. On the other hand, is Windows the brand? No since Live Search and MSN and Live Mesh, do not have the word Windows in them. I am confused very very much!

    Why Windows Live? Is search in Windows Live? No. What does it contain? Hotmail and Spaces? Then why Windows Live? How does Hotmail or Spaces extend or tie into Windows? And what if I have a Mac? Are not these all online services?

    And what is Live Search? What does it contain and what is the difference from Windows Live? Live Maps and what else is groupped under Live Search? And why doesn't Search and Maps extend Windows to be called Windows Live, whilst Spaces and Hotmail do and are called so? For me they are all online services, including Search and Maps.

    And what about Mesh? Why call it Live again? So Live now is the brand name? I thought that it was used just to indicate that a product such as Windows has an online extension. Then Live Mesh should be Windows Live since it truely extends Windows. So the only product that truely extends Windows you called it Live Mesh and not Windows Live and other unrelated online services that one can and should be able to access even from his Mac you called them Windows Live? Strange! Very strange!

    And what about Office Live? When I want my files I want them everywhere, I don't think that these are my Office files so let's put them on Office Live and these are my Windows files and so let me put them on Windows Live Skydrive. How strange!

    Who thought of all this mess or perhaps all this Mesh?

    Live this Live that Live the other Live yet the other I don't get it. The next version of Windows and Office should be named Live Windows and Live Office I think. After all they would be made "live" as they would incorporate the Web as an integral part of their operations, increasing your productivity ... bla, bla, bla. What? Live Windows? Yes, and through that new desktop OS called Live Windows you would be able to access a suite of integrated Windows Live services, although some of them might not be that integrated or even extensions of Live Windows itself, such as Hotmail but who cares! We will call it Live Windows anyway and you would be able to check your Windows Live Hotmail by clicking the Live Start button on the Live Desktop, opening a version of Live Internet Explorer under Live Silverlight after you have adjusted of course the right options under Live Control Pannel, or is it the right Live Options of the Live Windows Windows Live Desktop under the Live Windows Live Control Pannel? And did we say Live Live Homepage? Yes, the new Live Live Homepage, featuring Live Live Search, or is it the new Live Windows Live Search, since now it would be even more integrated with the Live Desktop on the new version of Live Windows, so it should be rightly called the new Live Windows Live Search?

    So people would tell their friends:

    I read on MSN (or is it Live MSN) which by the way is a contents site which differs from Windows Live since the latter are communication (or are they? since OneCare is part of them. Anyway.) ... well I read on that page that Microsoft has released the new version of Windows Live Messenger and please download that.

    Windows Live what?

    Please change branding now!

    At the very most: Keep Office Live and use it for an online, web-based version of Office. Anything else is too much and a lot of nonsence which nobody will ever get.

    Hey see we have 3 brands now. They give so much more clarity. Live Search for um something, Windows Live for um something else and MSN for contents? But wait what content? Doesn't Search give me content? Windows Live for extending Windows? But wait what Windows they are online. No I mean Windows Live for a set of personal communication and collaboration services. But wait then is OneCare a communications service or not? And what about Live Mesh, isn't that a communications service? Why not then Windows Live Mesh?

    Remember the time that everything wanted to be .NET. Visual Studio .NET, Windows .NET, VB.NET, .NET Passport, .NET this and .NET that? Haven't you learnt anything?

  • Greetings,

    I've read through out these posts and other blogs related to the new Live Search design, and the phrase the stood out out of a few of them were "Have you learned anything, yet?".

    Indeed, there should be some kind of standard Live Search interface, and you're able to pick different styles of the search if the web site may please. What they should really focus is how the users receive results. I've a lot of people turning back to Google for their results since Live Search gave them poor results.

    Not only do you have Google, but you have, and Yahoo! search engines, so you have yourself some competion to win, and you'll need to do it well BEFORE even thinking about publishing it well in the market with T.V. advertisments. Also, before broadcasting it to the general users, you should first allow the developers and designers be able to use your Windows Live services in their web site's if they may choose to do so.

    The post before this, and also the "Wednesday, May 07, 2008 12:21 AM by Anon" post, stated well about the issue. The previous post did state "Please change branding now!", and that leads to how Microsoft's teams are confusing us with these brand names. Try to draw us a map to what the heck are you doing, please.

  • When do you refresh the "My Windows Live", "Windows Live Favorites", and all other services with the old wave?

    Some of these services need a refresh!


  • Yes the new updates are nice, but again same problem. Some features available in some market and some are not. Like xRank not shown for some regions. Some regions show Video search with beta tag. So to spread the word about such features, i feel the readers may find it difficult to find those features and which may annoy them. So please make it consistent among all markets. That's one of my main concern.

  • I think this a great feature and will help a lot!! thanks

  • Arial, eh?  "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."

    Arial is a miserable font, dating back to at least Windows 3.1.  It isn't a font that one uses for readability -- Microsoft has developed a number of fonts specifically for increased screen readability, such as Verdana and all the new ClearType-optimized "C" fonts that ship with Vista.  Those fonts should be used instead.

    The real reason Live Search is using Arial is because Google uses it -- the mindset that anything that makes users' experience with Live closer to Google's experience must be a good thing.

  • I have Live Search for mobile users and I love it but it does not allow me to use the SMS Texting to send search results to friends although I have text messenger on my phone and it is an option in the menu.  what do I need to access this menu option?

  • I have Live Search for mobile users and I love it but it does not allow me to use the SMS Texting to send search results to friends although I have text messenger on my phone and it is an option in the menu.  what do I need to access this menu option?

  • Do I need to get an update to Live Search 2.5?  If so, where?

  • Do I need to get an update to Live Search 2.5?  If so, where?

  • Healthcare BiWeekly, the leading magazine for the independent care sector, has exposed the flaws in the care home rating system developed by the regulator, Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI).