Google Search UI Overhaul Lets Users Better Slice, Dice Results

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-05-05

Google May 5 introduced what may be the most comprehensive feature set for the way users access its search engine, adding more ways for users to slice and dice queries they put to Google.

These changes, which began rolling out today across 37 languages, with a mobile version available for English interfaces in the United States, live in the left-hand panel.

Google now offers content type tabs to find the relevant content types for each query a user makes, Nundu Janakiram, product manager for search at Google, told eWEEK in an interview.

For example, the query "string theory" surfaces options to refine search by everything, images, videos and books. A search for "red shoes" returns different vertical search options, such as images, books, videos and shopping. The query for the recently closed "nfl draft" renders choices for updates, blogs and news.

Search refinement choices are tailored to be more relevant to each query. This effort, which advanced Google's Universal Search work, is the sort of advanced intelligence that could satisfy searchers conducting more advanced queries.

Google also built out its Search Options, which included search refinements regarding time, related searches, the Wonder Wheel and timeline. Previously accessible via a button atop search results pages (SERPS), Search Options are readily available under the content types.

Just as with content types, the crux of the refreshed Search Options is relevance, so that Google doesn't "dump all of the tools on the page for every single search," Janakiram said. 

"What we've done here is select a subset of tools that are relevant to a particular query and display them right in the interface," he said, adding that Google hadn't yet built this technology when it first launched Search Options in May 2009.

Returning to the query "string theory" returns the options for related searches, Wonder Wheel and sites with images. A query for "big green egg," a type of grill, returns shopping options. Users can, of course, choose to see all options by clicking a button; Google is just trying to shorten the route to the desired result.

Google also added new temporal relevancy features, including the ability to detect a burst of new content from a breaking news event. For example, the new search UI lets users refine search by the latest results, or for the past two days.

New refinements, titled "something different," borrows functionality from the Google Squared tool from Google Labs. For the query "Rolling Stones," Google will offer other classic rock bands that cut their teeth in the '60s and '70s, including Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and Pink Floyd.

Finally, Google refreshed the Google logo, lightening the drop shadow and brightening the colors. Google also dropped the "wedding cake" appearance of its footer for the SERP in favor of a cleaner design, Janakiram.

How will users take to these changes? Users comfortable with a service tend to strongly resist change initially, then cotton to it over time. Or they run off to another site, but neither Microsoft Bing nor Yahoo seems to appeal to loyal Google users.

The new changes make the left-hand panel busier for sure, but they are unobtrusive enough and will actually help users looking to delve deeper into topics.

The various extra buttons will lend some much-needed nuance to queries at a time when users are expecting more information from searching Google.

Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan puts the refinements through the ringer here

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