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Bing Introduces 3-Column Search Results With Snapshots, Social Sidebar

Danny Goodwin
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bing-redesign-drake-hotel-chicago

Bing will soon debut a big search results redesign. Rather than forcing social results into the main organic results, Bing will unveil a three-column design with organic results as the main pane, “entities” in the middle, and social on the right.

“People are using the Web to do things in the real world, and that’s a big change from where things were a decade ago,” Bing Senior Director Stefan Weitz said in a statement. “And so the 10 blue links that search has been predicated on for the last decade no longer makes sense. Simply put, that’s not how you get things done.”

Decluttered Organic Results

Bing, recognizing that not all people want to have their search results filled up with social “clutter” will put its focus on simplified, traditional, relevant organic results, rather than jamming social signals into search results. Bing has found that those results aren’t that relevant to users, with 75 percent of searches not providing users the right answer.

So Bing will remove “unnecessary links” to core information users want, divorcing most of the noisy social network results from the organic results, in the hopes of providing more relevant results more quickly.

This revamp was foreshadowed by Bing’s simpler user interface rolled out just last week, which removed the left sidebar and minimized the top navigation.

Snapshot

The “middle” Snapshot column aims to show users useful information about specific places or topics – specifically, restaurants, hotels, businesses, and movies. It will be filled with such things as events, hours, phone number, maps, restaurant reservations, and reviews, in part aided by partnerships and integration with companies like Yelp, Open Table, and Fansnap.

In Bing’s example screenshot, a specific hotel search returns such info as rates, check-in and check-out dates, a map, reviews, and pictures. More generic searches (e.g., “chicago seafood restaurant”) might just provide a map in this column because there isn’t clear intent.

This is similar to Google’s “Sources” feature experiment from November. It will be a more “selective” interactive experience, so certain search queries may not trigger this column.

“Up until now, people would have to visit different sites, read reviews about that hotel, and cobble them all together to form an opinion,” Weitz said. “With snapshot, we do the heavy lifting by assembling the most useful information in a way that allows people to quickly consume it and make it valuable.” Bing plans to further expand this feature in the future to add places, things, and people.

Social Sidebar

The Sidebar is where all of Bing's social activity will live. Bing will pull in information from social networks including Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Quora, LinkedIn, Google+, Skype, and Blogger. It will consist of four features:

  • Ask Friends
  • Friends Who Might Know
  • People Who Know
  • Activity 

Taking advantage of the Bing-Facebook partnership, with Ask Friends, Bing will allow users to ask their Facebook friends questions from the Bing sidebar related to Bing’s search suggestions, such as whether a Facebook friend would agree with Bing’s top restaurant recommendation. Questions will appear as notifications on Facebook, and can be answered from within Facebook or by returning to the Bing results.

Insode the Friends Who Might Know area, when you conduct a search, the Bing Sidebar will show searchers a list of friends who might be able to help answer your question or solve your problem. 

“So if you query ‘Hawaii,’ user models in the network look at public information in your profile such as where your friends live or have lived, what they’ve liked on Facebook, and photos [they have shared] -- and turn up a list of people who likely have information relevant to your query,” says Sandy Wong, principal development lead for Bing.

In People Who Know, the social Sidebar will show the names of experts, enthusiasts, and influentials who have blogged or tweeted about topics related to a user’s search. From the Sidebar, Bing will allow users to click on a person’s name to read their blog or follow them on Twitter.

Finally, in Activity, you'll be able to see real-time posts and queries, answer friends' questions, and Like posts. Bing said these activities will show up on Bing as well as Facebook, allowing you to comment from either place. Users will have to be signed into Facebook when on Bing for all this Bing-Facebook integration to work. 

The new results will roll out of the “coming weeks”. You can sign up here to be notified when it’s available. You can also a check out a couple videos of the new search layout in Bing's official announcement.


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