A Deeper Look at Task Completion

At Bing, our mission is to help you spend less time searching and more time getting things done. To do this we are investing in delivering the most relevant web results as fast as possible, as well as constantly exploring how Bing can be more helpful during your search experience.

How Searchers Spend Their Time

While navigational queries are common and account for a fair percentage of our search volume, they represent a relatively small amount of customer time spent on a task. Most time spent on search tasks is actually spent doing the kind of research that requires multiple queries and visiting multiple pages – either to find exactly the right one, or because the task itself requires additional digging in multiple locations. At minimum, a typical search process involves several stages, from typing a search query, waiting for results, then selecting a result link, and finally waiting for the selected page to load. This sequence of steps can take between 30 and 60 seconds. In practice we find that people engage in an iterative search process as they lead up to completing their task. They search, sift through options, reject ones that are obviously irrelevant, and visit pages that seem most likely to offer the information or ability to take the action that they want. So the actual time spent to complete a task using a search engine can span hours or even days.

Let me show you an example. In the below search session someone in Kansas City is looking for something to do over the weekend. You can see how the entire task involved several queries for a theater in town and visiting multiple pages.

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Task Completion Investments

At Bing we take a holistic look at these search experiences and are taking deliberate steps to build a more helpful search engine that saves time searching. One key approach is to shorten the number of steps required for a typical search (type query, wait for results, select a result, and wait for selected page) so you can take action more quickly. Today we are announcing an important feature in our overall endeavor to shrink the time it takes you to complete tasks using Bing. For background, let’s revisit some of the steps we have taken to speed up the sequence for a typical search.

Last June, we introduced a feature called Snapshot, which enables answers at a glance to the right of the search results page. With Snapshot, we are able to provide a richer set of search results that help you understand the world around you and take action. We’ve run thousands of experiments to determine the types of tasks most frequently attempted in Bing. As a result, for many searches, consumers find the answer to their query right on the Bing results page itself and do not have to load another page – the iterative search process can end with the Bing results page. We continue to expand our Satori entity collection (the underlying technology for Snapshot) so whether you’re searching for answers about a celebrity, co-worker, animal, geographic location, or man-made structure, Bing helps you understand the world around you by providing at-a-glance answers about the people, places and things you care about.

Then in February this year we introduced Ghosting in Autosuggest. Ghosting is a way to pre-populate the query most likely to be used in the search box (blue selected-text style as you type in the query box) in an effort to speed up the time it takes to express your intent and get to your destination. Ghosting increases the searching speed by 16% by reducing clicks and letters typed.

Subsequently, in May we released a better Autosuggest that allows you to find people right from the search box. So if you’re searching for a celebrity, politician, athlete or even a colleague with a publicly available LinkedIn profile, Bing provides a snapshot of information about that person below the search bar. We also expanded Autosuggest to more categories, like brands, movies, albums, places, software, sport teams, animal species and more. The result is that Bing gives you relevant information about your intended search directly in the search box so you have an initial sense of the results you’ll get when you click through, and more than that, helps you to disambiguate between different things that share the same name.


Introducing Pre-Render

Today we are introducing an improvement available for Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) that helps you accomplish your search tasks even faster. The next time you perform a search in Bing using IE11, you’ll notice that when you click on the top result, the associated page is almost instantly rendered. To achieve this, we leverage IE11’s pre-render tag to automatically download and render the top result page in the background – it does this in a streamlined fashion taking care to not waste your bandwidth and battery life.

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“With pre-rendering, you can now enjoy a faster end-to-end search experience, whether you are trying to read the latest news (e.g. “new york times”) or looking for movie reviews (e.g. “rotten tomatoes”).”

A Call to Website Developers

If you are a website owner, we encourage you to learn more and use the pre-render tag today to boost your own visitors’ experience with your site. The tag is particularly helpful in scenarios where you can anticipate your user’s next action with a high degree of confidence. For instance, try pre-rendering the top article in your homepage or the next page in an article page. Your visitors will thank you.

– John Psaroudakis, Program Manager, Bing Core Search and Dr. Mujtaba Khambatti, Principal Program Manager Lead, Bing Core Search

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