Microsoft's new Bing search engine beat Google in design and search results, but Google has fostered enough comfort and loyalty to retain users, according to a small study conducted by Web design firm Catalyst Group. See the study slides here.
Eight out of 12 subjects who were regular Google users and had never used Bing said that Bing's design was more attractive than Google's presentation, and that Bing's initial and refined search engine results were more useful than those found on Google's search engine.
More users felt Bing's features, such as the explorer pane and related searches options, were organized better, and that it was easier to find and use Bing's refine and shopping results sections.
However, those who elected to remain with Google said they ultimately would stick with Google because the search results were similar. Further, the users were already familiar with Google's Web services and Bing's "decision-making" and visual improvements were not enough to sway them to Microsoft's $80 million effort to take search engine market share from Google.
"Bing generates interest, but it's hard to take me away from Google because I'm so comfortable with it," the subjects who chose Google told Catalyst researchers. "The differences are very small [between the two search engines]. They're too small for me to switch to Bing."
Catalyst said users were split into two groups of six people, with one group performing a hotel search and the other conducting a shopping search for digital cameras on Bing and Google. Catalyst had the two groups run both searches on one site and then do the same queries on the other site to mitigate any bias effects. Results in the study hail from the first search each group did.
For the camera ad, the six users spent an average of 4.9 seconds looking at the top ad on Bing, compared with only 2 seconds looking at the top ad on Google.