New home page helps you explore more on the Web

Today we’re releasing an update to the Live Search home page that received positive feedback from customers in trials last month. The new design features background images that will change frequently, augmented with what we call “hotspots.” These interactive areas highlight parts of the image and help you explore search results related to the highlighted area. Users who have tested this new home page have found it both engaging and a great place to start a search.

New images and hotspots

In our release last spring we laid the foundation for this page. In this home page release we’ve added background home page images that we’ll change regularly and hotspots that click through to great search results. Hotspots gleam to the user when the page first loads then fade into the image. Users can discover them again by moving their mouse over them, revealing details about the image and a link to a related search result. To ensure that users can start a search immediately, our base page loads first with the images and hotspots loading quickly afterward. Users on a broadband connection may not notice the two steps. Today we’re releasing the new home page in the U.S. only, with more markets to follow in the future.

Image of two versions of Live Search home page

A great place to start a search

Our goal for the home page is to find the best way to enhance users’ sense of discovery, surprise, and delight while balancing engineering realities for a great user experience.

Extensive user research and exploration of many concepts with our customers pointed us in the direction for this design. We want the page to be a great place to start a search and also to intrigue and inform as well. We think hotspots will help users discover parts of Live Search they might not know while not distracting from the core purpose of the page — searching.

We think the new design is a great start, but there’s more to come, with lots of interesting directions that we’ll be exploring in our next releases of the home page.

Chris Rayner, Senior Product Manager, and Zach Gutt, Senior Program Manager
Live Search User Experience team

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29 comments
  1. Anonymous

    Nice!

    Beautiful pic – how often will they change?

    thanks.

    js

  2. Anonymous

    Looks great (tip for those outside of the US, just click on your country at the top and change it to US to check it out).

    Thought it was a good idea when I first saw it mentioned on the blogosphere a couple of months back.

    I think it will go down quite well with mainstream audiences, and people who like a bit of flavour to a page without cluttering it up.

    One thing I don’t like, the "hotspots" don’t have ClearType or any kind of anti-aliasing on the text, would be nice to see that addressed in the future.

  3. Anonymous

    It’s like a double-plus-good version of the event specific logo.

  4. Anonymous

    I love it. Intriguing for sure.

    Live search is as good as any other. The media is just nuts.

  5. Anonymous

    I have a question.  I have sitemeter on my blog, that shows me who visits the site, where they are from, and what search engine they use.  I have a few dozen visits from Microsoft, and every time the referring search engine is Google.  Why don’t you guys make the rest of Microsoft use Live Search?

  6. Anonymous

    ya know…i’m kinda digging on that whole hotspot thing.  cool!  good job.

  7. Anonymous

    David:

    Microsoft doesn’t limit search engine use from corpnet; it would be silly to do so.

    As a best practice, employees should eat dogfood. In practice, it doesn’t happen in this case.

    Ry

  8. Anonymous

    Speaking of design, I have a serious question.

    Why Live Search don’t open a new window/tab when click on the search results by default? Almost every other search engine do so.

    When I was using Live Search first time, I find that very weird. After three or more try, finally I found that I can customize this in option, but even I changed the option, some times it doesn’t work properly – still don’t open a new window/tab, especially with the news search. That really bothers me. And I think that bothers a lot of people, at least some people I know.

    And another thing that bothers me is that Live search isn’t very sensitive to the new things on the web.

    Great job, though.

  9. Anonymous

    That’s superb !

    Hotspots surely will engage people  if they are of exploring type. More people will discover and learn new things. Hope to see these images to be of Worldwide nature so as to cover images from all over world. And may be also Special images on Special occasions like festivals, independence day etc.

    Hope to see it implemented world over soon and not US specific.

    Now one can say "What you have discovered today…..?"

  10. Anonymous

    You know, if you’re excited about this release, it doesn’t come across in your description of it.  A bit more "I", "you" and a bit less of "the user" would help.

    The new home page, on the other hand, looks great!

    Bob

  11. Anonymous

    I’m not here to diss, but I just don’t see this providing the kind of value that good search results provide. Most of my Live Search experience has been dismal, compared to years of using Google search. Instead of putting pretty pictures on the search page that tell me what I can look for, I’d like to actually just look for what I want to look for and get more relevant results.

  12. Anonymous

    hmmm..i might use this page as my active desktop. Anyone tried this before?

  13. Anonymous

    Neat! Will these hotspots be later monetized with interactive, rich media ads?

  14. Anonymous

    It doesn’t work if you have High Contrast display settings in XP. Sad.

  15. Anonymous

    So you actually think it’s a good investment on your part to work on having replaceable background pictures on the homepage, each with a very small number of pre-defined search queries that likely don’t interest almost anyone who come to the page? Am I missing something?

    It does look pretty, but… why??? If I didn’t go to the search page to look for information about crocodiles, or flyfishing, or whatever, then being presented with an image and these search options won’t exactly help me, in any way, to find what I was interested in.

  16. Anonymous

    Not sure I understand the point of this. Nice picture and beautiful layout, but does this really help me when I’m searching for something (which is the task at hand). Its nice for serendipitous browsing, not searching.

    So much could be done to improve searching, seems a waste of effort.

  17. Anonymous

    What a refreshing change.  After viewing text by the hour, I appreciate the opportunity to give my eyes a ‘vacation’ when using Live Search.  I have now made live.com my start page and look forward to the changing scenery.

  18. Anonymous

    I like the new change its very interesting. One thing i wonder is the speed do people really care about the homepage of a search engine. Google is still on top only because of their speed and simplicity. I hope this improvement is a hit.

    I do like it and home it spreads to other countries faster.

  19. Anonymous

    Interesting feature.

    When will this be introduced worldwidely?

  20. Anonymous

    The background picture with hotspots is a nice touch, BUT is there an option to turn it OFF? I like, but I want there to be an option to disable it too. I can’t find it in Options.

    It would be nice if:

    1. We could use our own images for backgrounds – A nice personalized touch, where people with Live ID’s can upload a picture and use it for the main search page.

    2. Option to disable it

    3. Special pictures for holidays

    Other than that, I think you should also focus more on the search experience too. I think Live Search does fine for the most part, but it could still do better. Like when I type "on10" (a Microsoft community site), the real page is several pages in the back. Weird, huh?

    Maybe you guys can make some exclusive Wikia-like thing, where users who want to join, can help make the results better by moving them, adding some, or other things. Sometimes, computers aren’t as good as humans in picking the right ones.

  21. Anonymous

    I really like the look and dare I say the results seem to be much better than last time I used Live search. I’ve switched my home page to Live search from Google and will give it a go.

    So far, it’s nailed every search I’ve done and after looking at nothing but white space for so long, it’s a nice change.

    Just make sure you change the photo every month or so or even rotate some through but keep the soft neutral blue theme. It’s easy on the eyes.

    I’d say you going in the right direction.

  22. Anonymous

    I agree with Quikboy. This should have an option to turn off the effects, and also an option to allow using our own picture, if desired, or not having a photo at all. Some people may like photos on their search page, others may not. That should be our option. If it is to be my personal search  and home page, then I should be allowed to set it up as I want it.

  23. Anonymous

    Very attractive.

    Don’t go with personalisation (For that I have my.live and my.msn) – keep to your idea of frequently changing backgrounds with hotspots – makes visiting Live Search more interesting…  And special events (similar to what Google does with its logis).

  24. Anonymous

    Hmm, looks good!  To those who want to turn it off… why do you even navigate to live.com?  Why don’t you use your browser’s search box?

  25. Anonymous

    Yeah, I agree with Quickboy too. input ‘on10′ can’t direct you to the http://www.on10.net which is very weird. I tried google/yahoo, even http://www.baidu.com in chinese, they all gave the right result and all showed http://www.on10.net as the first result. Live search must improve its relevance to win the search game. Design is also something needs to be done properly, but utimately, it is relevance that matters.

  26. Anonymous

    Thank you very much for the work. The new home page, on the other hand, looks great!

  27. Anonymous

    If all you do is copy Ask.com, why not just buy them, or hire the people there who created it?

  28. Anonymous

    Although I prefer more of a spartan layout when it comes to search but I actually found this to be rather attractive and seems to work just fine when viewed in IE 8.0 beta 1 (IE 7.0 emulate mode, IE 8.0 standard mode is pretty much useless right now).

    Unfortunately it leaves Firefox users out in left field since viewing Live Search in Firefox 3.0.1 and the trunk builds of 3.1 drives a single core CPU right through the roof (96+% usage). Not all script driven effects do this by the way, only some and unfortunately it hasn’t been narrowed down to exactly why yet.

    Too bad, this would have been a nice alternative to Google Search for Firefox users so I have to agree with the commenter’s who have already stated that there needs to be a way to turn the new effect off.

    Is there any possible way to test these new types of features using a browser other than IE as well? Firefox isn’t exactly a minority player anymore.

  29. Anonymous

    Fantastic idea! However, it seems a bit slow loading, and some people might have already used search before the picture even appeared though. The pictures also need to update daily. Also, perhaps allow user submissions?

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