Monday, January 28, 2008
Introducing experimental views for search results
There have been a lot of recent improvements to web search, but the appearance of results themselves has been pretty constant -- 10 or so web pages in a vertical list. Frequently this is exactly the right format, but for some searches you need more options and more control. That's why we've created our experimental search page to let you try out some of our newest ideas.
You may have noticed our "alternative views" experiment showcased last May. This lets you visualize your search results in new ways, and we'd like to highlight some of the features we've recently added.
Suppose you're scouring the web trying to find out about math conferences happening in your state. Or you'd like to sit back and enjoy some jazz around town. This information is on the web and accessible through regular web search, but probably spread out over many sites and pages. Unless one of these pages has a map, it might be hard to visualize all the locations at once. Map view solves this problem by plotting some of the key locations contained in your web results onto a map.
After scrolling or zooming the map, try clicking on the "Update Results" button near the top left corner of the map to show more results just in the area you're looking at.
Timeline view does the same thing as map view, but for dates found on the web. This includes dates of upcoming or historic events, or even biographical information -- all generated automatically from your search results.
The graph across the top of the page summarizes how dates in your results are spread through time, with higher bars representing a larger number of unique dates. Click anywhere on the graph to zoom in to that particular period of time, and use the text box to the right to specify any range of years, months, or days. Much as in map view, the results below the graph emphasize the dates contained on each page.
Info view is a bit different. It doesn't dramatically change the visualization of results; web pages are still displayed vertically as usual. Now you'll notice a new control panel on the right side of the page:
Clicking on the different options in the panel changes the information shown below each result. Usually we show some text from the page that includes a few of the words you searched for. Now you can instead reveal text containing dates, locations, measurements, or images. For example, selecting "dates" from the control panel reveals the date of the Sputnik launch in the first result for "space exploration":
And selecting "images" from the control panel displays some nice images from the page:
If you run a search and find many of your results are looking similar, try using info view. It may highlight the differences between results and help you select the best page for your needs.
Tell us what you think
You can opt in to the alternative views experiments so they become your main search UI -- as well as try out many other new search tools -- on the experimental search page. After opting in, send us feedback by clicking on the experiment name in the upper right part of the search page and selecting "Take our survey". We'd love to hear your thoughts!