So here it is, my latest wishlist on Live Search, and improvements I could only hope that Microsoft be able to do. Stuff that in the end, would make Live Search a much stronger search engine to finally switch to.
So here’s my big wishlist:
- Ability to let special users push best results to the top – Even though Live Search nails down most of my results, I do find often times enough the results just aren’t there in line with Google‘s. Instead of letting machines and spiders do the pageranking, why not let actual humans have some input on what results should be at the top of every page? Face it, humans are more adept at knowing what results we want, than some machine that can’t get the right results often enough. Think of it as sort of like Wikia, where users can rank which results jump to the top, and even edit information about the website with a better description. Microsoft can select a small group of dedicated users (such as myself) to have the ability to rearrange the results they see fit, add a result that isn’t there, and edit the website description if it needs fine tuning. Users will have to justify their decision, and then someone from the actual Live Search team could check it out, and agree to switch it that way if it’s found reasonable enough. There’s less likely of a site bombing since each Live Search employee will run checks before instating it, and can ban users who are abusing it. This will work mainly for Web, Images, and Video searches. Perfect solution, eh?
- Drop-down Search Suggestions – I love drop-down Search Suggestions (or AutoSuggest as I prefer to call it)! Like I might know a partial name of something, or remember only a little of the name, and the word suggestions related to your search query that pop up as you type are very helpful. The Live Search Toolbar has had this nifty feature for quite some time, and it’s nice to see IE8 have it by default (visually too!). So why not take it a step further and put it into the page itself? I’d like it to be similar to Yahoo!‘s Search Assist, where there’s a dark background, and as you type, the words you’re typing are a bit darker, and the difference in each suggestion is done in white. So it’s really easy to tell the difference between the suggestions faster. Ability to turn if off right in the box or in settings is ideal.
- Site previews – I love that feature. Ask.com and Snap.com have it, and it’s super sweet. I could just hover over the icon or link of a result, and get a nice quick snapshot of what the general site looks like. It’s useful if I’m looking for a certain webpage I saw before, but don’t recall what it was called. Instead of pressing every link, I just hover and see. It’s also a nice touch, as long as it doesn’t get in the way. There should be an off switch in the Settings. Maybe you guys should buddy up with Snap.com who really has it all.
- Favicons in results – Yet another nice touch. Favicons are a visual way I can recognize a site by it’s specific icon, It’s can be more fast just by looking at the website’s icon. It doesn’t have to be humongous, you could put a golden border around it if there’s a site preview available (another clean nice touch!), and an option to turn it off in Settings.
- Website safety indicator – I want something similar to the McAfee SiteAdvisor implanted on Live Search. The McAfee Site Advisor is a great tool for determining if a link is safe to go to, or not. It’s generally done a great job from what I’ve seen. Like symbols next to each link are similar to OneCare’s status icon : Green = good, yellow = caution, and red = bad. Again, a nifty feature that I’m sure many people will enjoy the security of. So either the OneCare team makes their own website safety indicator for their suite and free Live Search integration, or buy McAfee and get one of McAfee’s greatest assets. Not to mention having a plug-in for IE. I’d think it be hard to replicate such a great service, but it doesn’t have to stop at safety. It can contain entire information about a site that one would ever need to know, such as the owner, last update, domain provider, type of site, etc.
- One-stop Website Information Database – It doesn’t have to stop with safety indications. How about creating a database of information about practically every single website (domain) in the world? Such as information about the site’s owner, country, last update, web traffic data, site as it was in the Internet Archives, rank, major external links, users’ overall review, report site abuse, download safety, spam test, and maybe even some screenshots (Live Search web integration for site previews?). Site comparisons too, and it’d be like the brain child of Alexa.com and McAfee SiteAdvisor (if only MS bought something worth buying!).
- Drag-n-Drop Results into a virtual group/folder – I’m taking this idea right off of Tafiti. What I mean by drag and drop results collections, is a way for users to drag an drop all kinds of search results (web, images, video, news, etc.) into virtual groups/folders/collections that users themselves can create. Like the same way if you’re shopping at the supermarket, and picking the products that matter to you and dropping them in a cart so it’s easier to keep track of instead of holding each individually. The group container could remain independent of the search results off to the very side of the page as a pane you can extend/hide.It’d stay static as you search across different fields instead of reloading the whole page and the pane every time. You can save these virtual groups using your Live ID. It’s like taking the idea of the Scratchpad in Live Image Search, and expanding it to all of Live Search, but bigger and easier to manage in a pane you can always hide/extend. The ability to add comments and tag each search result to search up in the pane would be great. Nice idea, eh?
- Customized search pages – I like this idea from Mahalo. Instead of machines ranking and indexing the entire enormous web, how about letting users create specific search query pages that really pertain to users, instead of machines? Let users pick the websites and links that should show up on the customized search page, and split them off into separate target groups such as official, top sites (such as overview articles, fan sites, direct download, etc.), blogs, latest news, and top images all chose by us. I also like Mahalo’s "Guide Note" and "Fast Facts" pane at the very left of the results. It provides a quick brief intro to what your search query is all about, and some important facts that you ought to know. I like that, because it usually doesn’t require me to look farther to other sites, when the necessities are right there. Similar to Live Search’s Instant Answers, but provides more in-depth stuff. Again, letter users pick what’s good, instead of letting machines spill out what they think is right, sounds like a better idea to me. Microsoft’s acquisition of Powerset is all about information based results like Mahalo, but completely based on Wikipedia and not user input.
- Universal Search – It’s pretty similar to what I just said about customized search pages, but not really user-based. Just simply displaying a search query’s web/image/video/news/etc. results all in one page. To some, it might be more helpful to get all a lot of results and information all in that page. Make this an option, and allow us to choose which verticals we want to see on one page.
- Visual Search – People are usually visually-minded, rather than text-minded. After all, a picture can tell a thousand words. That’s why people like Image and Video search on Live Search; it’s because it’s more visual than text. Ways to make a search engine more visual-like include fancy interactive UI, heavy use of items such as website snapshot previews, favicons, high quality images in results, videos that play a short segment when you hover, album art pops up if you search for a song, book covers, etc. To me, that’s the way to go. People are so visual, and things like icons and thumbnails are more important to us than having to read through a bunch of lines of text, waste time, and figure out that’s not the right result you wanted. Viewzi is a great example of visual search.
- More Search verticals – It can’t hurt to offer some more search verticals, so I can get more information all in place, instead of a bazillion sources. I find Live Search is really missing out on verticals such as Yellow Pages, White Pages, Podcasts, Music/MP3, Blog, Lyrics, Classifieds/Job Listings, Books, Academic, and Games. Now some of these are peculiarly in MSN at the moment, even though they pertain more to the search side such as Yellow Pages, White Pages, and Job Listings. Some sadly got discontinued like Books, Academic, and Classifieds. Microsoft could use the Zune Marketplace as a way to bring up Music and Podcast results (with album art hopefully!), Games can just be based on a local database, and MP3 and Blog are something Microsoft has yet to have had experience in. The more verticals, the better.
- Fancy sleek UI – This is pretty important, even though it’s after everything else (you need great results, before you can go fancy on the other stuff). The current Live Search looks pretty nice, but lots of people just love something more sleek, graphical, and awesome looking. Something you could just stare and think in awe about. Black background, white text is definitely a way to go. Emphasis on visual stuff such as photos, videos, or icons, with maybe a nice glow around the edge, or a layout view with wet floor reflections. Very swift moving UI. Different layout views. Customized looks. Dynamic zooming and updating. Awesome logo. Matching and consistent theme. All the UI goodies anyone can love. An option for simple search would be nice though.
That’s really about all I can think of, from a user’s point of view. Is there anything you think I should add to this list? I’ve posted some clips below of some of these elements I’m talking about: