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In keeping with the recent trend to update the page design of search engines (ie Yahoo and Ask Jeeves) I am in the process of redesigning our search engine. (Resisting the urge to publish domain, although would be helpful), is a mid sized search engine / directory, that will be making numerous changes to its format and features. In the wake of the online ad revenue toilet flush, we have gone from trying to do everything, to concentrating on a limited scope of features that is done well.
The existing interface is graphics heavy, and we are attempting a more minialist approach with simplistic design elements. Sort of a modular design easy for user to navigate, easy for webmasters to plug visual elements in and out as new and existing features are taken in and out.
What are some INNOVATIVE style, design, and usability elements you would like to see that current engines lack. Our focus is on style and presentation of data rather than the sheer volume of data. Is there certain elements you always wanted to see in an engine that currently isnt done, or is not done how you would hope? Even something radical.
Example, Yahoo's new format, although a minor improvement still has the exact same elements as its 95 format, it simply draws in a few new angular tabs etc taken off other popular search engine designs. But there is no actual attempt to harness any design ingenuity and come up with methods of displaying information differently than any other engine. I want to take that criticism and attempt to extrapolate what it is about it that is 'typical in design' and 'not innovative' and use those items as a critical part of my engines new design. When you look at it, Excite, Lycos, Yahoo are basically identical with a swaped around format, colour scheme and logo.
Its main features will be search engine, chatroom, online games, discussion forum, humor area and technology reviews. Is there something you think is sorely missing from that lineup?
In addition to any general feedback you can give, what are your opinions on the following items - your input is highly valued:
i) The removal of the directory category links from main page and instead incorporating suggested categories into search results
ii) Removal of a 'Featured Listing' program that is basically a reciprocal link system. Client places link to our engine on their front page, we place their link in priority section of search results.
iii) When displaying search results, what is your prefered format? Bulleted list of results, numbered, nothing in the front of the results, have features like (More Info, Similar sites, etc), Colours, font sizes, whether it shows domain name or not, keywords, etc.
Thanks for reading this long winded entry... Any advice, comments, recommendations etc would be greatly appreciated. I think it would also be valuable to other search engine web masters, maybe this should have its own thread? I welcome any ideas whether be it conservative or radical.
In the end, it matters not if the parking lot is well lit if there's no food in the diner.
It doesn't take much to do something that makes you stand out a bit, as long as it doesn't affect your performance. Google, for example, has a very simple, but bright and colourful logo, and also gets creative with the design, celebrating things like Christmas and the Olympics. It also plays has fun on April Fool's.
That all makes Google feel different (certainly more human), but actually it has the most boring user interface you can imagine, and a really boring way of presenting its results. You can also do a directory search which is a boring, bog-standard dmoz directory, and boring, boring, boring. And boring to boot.
Oddly enough, all that boringness doesn't seem to worry people. They don't want to stay long enough on a search engine to get bored, they want to leave as soon as they possibly can. That's the whole point of a search engine.