One of our goals for Bing was to improve the way search results pages are organized. We wanted to help people get away from the “search overload” they often feel– that sinking feeling when confronted by millions of non-descript results.
The Explore Pane is one of the ways we are bringing more order to the page. It allows us to provide a set of helpful tools in a consistent location across the Bing experience that enable you to more easily navigate various categories of results relevant to your query, including web, video, image, news, local, shopping, and more.
We conducted extensive research in planning Bing. One of the things people told us was that search results pages could be organized more effectively. We found that 66% of people are using search more frequently to help them make decisions. However, they are spending much more time on those decision-oriented sessions – averaging around 9 minutes per session. With that insight, we realized improving page organization to help get users to what they are looking for faster could have a big impact.
What’s in the Explore Pane?
The Explore Pane can contain three sets of tools – Quick Tabs, Related Searches and Search History.
- Quick Tabs provide a set of 1-click links to help you narrow in on more specific sub-categories for your initial search term. Think of them as a set of most likely next steps in the search process. These Quick Tabs are generated algorithmically based on common refinements for a given query type. As such you’ll see similar Quick Tabs within the categories for a given topic area, such as cars, but differences among categories. For example, the selection of Quick Tabs would be different for a celebrity or movie search.
- Related Searches provide a list of other related or exploratory searches you might want to try, based on the query itself. Related searches can be helpful for finding other related topics. Whereas Quick Tabs are helpful in narrowing a search, Related Searches help you explore tangential topics that might be of interest.
- Search History provides you direct access to recent searches that you’ve performed in a given search session. You can revisit earlier queries and even share search results via email, IM or Facebook through a simple click.
For certain queries that are very specific (such as your name or other “tail” queries), Quick Tabs and Related Searches may not appear every time. However for what we call “head” queries which are broader terms that often require refinement in the search process, Quick Tabs and Related Searches are presented to help you more easily navigate the volumes of content that exist on your given search term.
Where can I find it?
The Explore Pane is always present in the left hand pane on the page as a permanent companion while using Bing. We did extensive user testing with early concepts and concluded two things:
i) The feature was sufficiently helpful to present as a permanent feature on the page.
ii) The left hand pane was the best location – being highly accessible from the main set of results, without being too distracting.
How dynamic is it?
The contents of the Explore Pane are highly dynamic. The presence or content of Quick Tabs and Related Searches vary for every different query that you type, while the Search History tool is unique to you as a user.
We believe that the Explore Pane is an important component of a more structured, helpful and well-organized results page. In the near future we’ll follow up with more detailed postings on both the Quick Tabs and Search History features.
Martin Stoddart, Senior Product Manager, Bing