At Bing, we understand that search is more than simply finding information, it’s about taking action and gaining knowledge. Since Bing’s launch, we’ve talked about doing instead of searching, and how the web has changed from a collection of documents to a constantly growing digital version of life as we know it. At the same time, the devices and scenarios through which people experience the web are morphing at an accelerating rate. We no longer think about search as simply a box that people type into. We ‘search’ on maps using our fingers, ask our devices questions using our voice, use our social networks to figure out what’s happening, and even use our phone’s ‘eyes’ to navigate foreign cities. Search has never been asked to do so many things in so many different ways across so many devices. It’s time to change.
Nowhere has this been more obvious than with how people use Microsoft devices and services. We can now speak to our Xbox consoles to find and interact with digital entertainment. Our Windows Phones offer contextually relevant suggestions and can translate languages in real time. Bing image search is now part of Word, and Bing Maps part of Excel. Bing is now an important service layer for Microsoft, and we wanted to create a new brand identity to reflect Bing’s company-wide role. The new look integrates the “One Microsoft” vision both from a product perspective and visually. You can read more about it from my colleague Scott Erickson here.
A New Look for Bing: More Helpful, More Human, More Beautiful
Within our product team, we talk about the goal of Bing as always being helpful, human and beautiful. To chart this course, we have also rebuilt Bing.com with a beautiful new, modern design focused on simplicity, speed and visual appeal to give people a better search experience regardless of the device they are using.
Let’s take a look at the changes:
A New Interface: a Modern Bing.com
With this release we’ve created a modern Bing.com experience – one that is faster, cleaner and more visually appealing. We believe that search can be beautiful as well as functional and efficient. With that as our goal, we evaluated fonts, spacing, color, visual scan patterns, the search box and even the underlying code. We’re excited about the final result and to give you a glimpse, we have created a destination at www.bing.com/newwhere you can learn more about the new face of search.
However, the journey to a modern experience is not simply a point-in-time. In rewriting the underlying code of our search experience, we gave ourselves a dynamic environment to respond quickly to the future state of the web and how people use it. In landing on today’s design, we went through hundreds of variations of the Bing.com experience and we’ll continue this process to redefine what it means to be a beautiful, functional and efficient search experience. Here’s just one glimpse of how our new modern design could evolve in the future.
Snapshot: Helpful Information at a Glance.
Last year we introduced two major features. The first was Snapshot, which showed what “Bing knows” about a person, place or thing. The second was our Sidebar, where you could see what your “Friends know” from Facebook, Twitter and many other social networks. Throughout the year, we’ve learned a lot about when people need factual information and when they need a human perspective.
In our new design, we’ve combined these two sources of knowledge to provide people with all the supporting context they’ll need for any given query. This combined region ranks the key information and actions we know about any an entity, while bringing in friends and expert opinions about that same topic. For example, consider a search for “Highway 1”. Bing knows there are many possible things you might be looking for. Our new design displays both the factual data about this beautiful route (length, date, related places), and also the human perspective whether they be status updates, photos, tweets, check-in’s or expert opinions.
Page Zero: Finding without Searching
The past several years have given us terabytes of data on how people engage with results once they perform a search. Our balancing act is getting information to a user as quickly as possible while making that information relevant and meaningful. In other words, people don’t just want faster guesses from their search engine, they want search to be faster and smarter. As such, we’re introducing Page Zero, a new function in Bing that helps a user get an answer or take an action before they even seethe first results page. We do this by showing key tasks associated with the query while they’re typing. This not only provides important information and services to them quickly, but enables them to see what kinds of things they can explore on Bing and across the Web. For example, if you type Katy Perry, we understand what you’re looking for before you’ve even searched and give you a quick glance of who she is and suggest other popular search tasks associated with the singer.
Page Zero can also help users find what they are looking for faster through “intelligent disambiguation”. This is another way of saying if we understand there are two similarly named people or things, we give you the choice of picking the one you want for the most relevant results. For example, if you’re searching for “jon stewart” You could be talking about the show or the host. So here we present you with a choice right in the search box.
We’ll continue to improve our intent understanding based on real-time data so our action tiles will actually change over time based on what actions are most relevant to that entity. For example, for a query like the publication El Tiempo, we’ll show deep links into the site so you can navigate directly into the publication. For something like the query for United Airlines, we will show the most common actions like “Check in” and “Flight Status”. We think the time people will save using Page Zero instead of navigating a search results page will be significant.
Pole Position: High Confidence Results
In search, there are a lot of queries that have multiple or ambiguous intents. For example, someone querying “temple” might want information about the religious structure, Temple University in PA or the subway station in London by the same name. We address these scenarios in a number of ways, such as the earlier mentioned intent disambiguation.
However, we often also receive “high-confidence” queries – searches for which we have very clear data about what someone is looking for due to our work to understand search intent using advanced machine learning. We’re now introducing a new surface area at the top of the page called “Pole Position” for results where we have high confidence on a user’s intent. When we know that someone wants images of a celebrity, is looking for a specific fact or needs a detailed view of the weather in a particular city, we now provide a much larger answer beautifully integrated at the top of the page. These larger format answers help people find the best answer for their question. This space will be rapidly evolving to enable users to take an action or dig deeper into that topic. To create this feature, we’ve leveraged all our experience with delivering structured data and entities in our Snapshotover the past year. We’re excited about being able to deliver a compelling experience when we are sure, yet dial back gracefully when variety should be emphasized.
The Right Search Experience for the Right Device
As our technology world continues to be defined by screens – from 100” TVs to 1.65” watches and everything in between– the ability for our search interface to intelligently scale according to the given device is paramount. Our new layout is built from the ground up to work across devices and will adjust both to the size of the screen and the context of the user so we present the right experience at the right time. Results should look as beautiful on a Surface or iPad as they do on a PC or phone. Our new platform will enable us to improve experiences across an ever growing range of devices, like mobile. In fact we recently announced a revamped experience as part of Windows Phoneand this release will leverage those improvements to will bring them to all mobile devices. Part of this focus on mobile and tablet devices means integrating touch into our experiences and we’ve introduced a number of capabilities to allow for more rapid refinements in the future.
The improvements we’re releasing in this latest release of Bing.com are the beginning of a new, more modern era for Bing. We believe this reinvention will give people faster access to information, more efficient ways to get things done and a unique and human perspective on search, all delivered through a beautiful experience.
It’s time to move forward. It’s time to build the next generation of search.
- Lawrence Ripsher, General Manager of User Experiences, Bing