When Bing launched back in June, our aim was to bring innovation to search in three important areas:
- Provide great results to help reduce the amount of time people spend searching and clicking on bad links
- Offer a richer, more organized experience to help people refine questions they ask of search engines as well as and provide innovative experiences based on what users are trying to accomplish
- Develop tools that help simplify key tasks, specifically around shopping, travel, local and health, given that search is the place many people go first to make decisions.
The product that we delivered was centered on these principles and your responses to it have made us smile and cringe at different times as people express delight with some features and dismay at others. We’re also happy to see that so many of you know about the product – research tells us 4 in 10 know Bing is Microsoft’s search engine – and are happy to see us continuing to earn your queries in a very crowded search market.
Since June we’ve released a bunch of new stuff to try and meet the demands of our users – Twitter integration, Visual Search, Twitter Search, better maps, and a host of user interface and index improvements. But being the true search geeks that we are, we knew we needed to keep our eye on the prize: we still need to help people make better decisions with more confidence. We are, after all, a Decision Engine not just a Search Engine.
So we listened: we talked to people in small groups all across the nation, we worked with search pioneers outside the company to get their take on what we were missing, and we listened to the quiet and fleeting clues about what you want in search by analyzing reams of data.
Three trends became clear:
- People want faster access to knowledge: They expect engines to understand the intent of their query and give them information, answers and shortcuts to help them complete their task. If your query tells us you’re looking for a band’s next concert outing, why can’t we just make that information appear right at the top of the page?
- People expect more than just 10 blue links: Not all queries are the same so why do most of the answers you get back from engines look the same? There are certain queries (like trying to research a vacation) where different user interfaces can actually help people get their task done more quickly. So knowing this, and realizing that knowledge comes in many forms, we’re creating a more visual search experience to make searching easier and, dare we say, a little more fun.
- Lastly, there is an increased focus on “getting stuff done” with search: Clearly people are looking for a way to decrease the amount of time they are sifting through the web assembling the information they need to make a decision. We focused on how we can speed the information gathering process, and then give you great tools to help make better decisions.
We’re excited to unveil some new features that are going to respond to these trends. We’re just starting the US rollout, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t see all the improvements immediately, it’ll take us several days to roll it all out.
There are a lot of updates that we want to share with you and we will cover most of them on the blog over the next few days. Today, however, we’ll highlight just a few.
It’s the holiday season and many of us will soon hit the road to visit family and friends. Research shows that when most of us plan travel, we turn to search engines first. Bing has several features that might help, beginning with a task-focused home page. Just scroll over “Travel” and with a simple click you can conduct your travel related-queries.
There is also an interactive Instant Answer that allows you to enter your origin, destination, travel dates and…click…you are in Bing travel. Within Bing travel you have fast access to flight purchase recommendations via the price predictor that tells you the least expensive times to fly. In addition to money, you’ll save time as well with Bing travel’s comprehensive flight listing results and links to top travel sites and airlines.
Not only are we using the web to help plan and book travel, we are also looking for information on local attractions, points of interest, neighborhoods and other local information sources like newspaper web sites. So we’ve created enhanced results for hundreds of cities, putting key information only a click away. Surveys among travelers also show that a top unmet need is access to high-quality images of potential destinations. We’ve taken note, and developed enhanced city results, which include links to key information and high-resolution slide shows.
We’re making the very popular preview feature even better in a number of ways. We’re making it easier to actually find it J by making the expansion button more obvious. We’re doing a better job mining things like contact phone numbers and email addresses from web pages and displaying them clearly under a Contact banner, and generally cleaning up the interface to make it easier to decide if this a site you want to visit.. Last, we’re also integrating images in some preview results. We believe that all these features will allow for a faster decision about whether a site is right for your needs, which means less clicking on your browser’s back button.
Now what to do once you’ve arrived at your destination? Or, what will you do to entertain the family while they visit you? You can now use our new event search feature, which provides a quick summary of events for major cities, which you can filter by categories like performances, civic activities, music and others:
Bing also makes it easy to see prices from popular ticket vendors across the web for events and even gives you handy venue information right in the search result!
Speaking of holidays and family…Have you started shopping yet? Has your little one given you his or her wish list? Or better yet, have you given your wish list to your family? We’ve helped make researching and deciding a little easier with our search sharing feature. Simply type in a product name and then share with your friends and family on Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail. Who would have thought making a holiday list using search could be so easy?
With the weather turning cold, it’s harder than ever to keep in shape. And all those goodies during the holidays won’t help. To help out, we’ve introduced better results for health conditions, medications, and even hospitals.. Each gives you more information and a more organized set of results to make it easy to get your health-related questions answered.
I’ve only touched on a few of our new features, so make sure to watch this space for discussions on other updates in the days to come.
–Henry Hall, Bing Product Management
Other posts of interest:
Bringing the Best of Web Video to You at Bing Videos
Bing maps is Looking Good
Mobile Madness Round 2… Then and Now
Bing is Bringing Twitter Search to You