Live Search Design: Too many cooks?

A new blog entry on the Live Search blog from Evan Malahy, Designer, Live Search describes the “guiding principles for this latest version of Live Search” as Simple and powerful. Human. Fast.  And maybe indeed, the new look lives up to that.

However out here in the world, we don’t get to see design concepts, or PowerPoint presentations, or get to sit in on design reviews.  We only see what is presented to us.  So when new looks appear and disappear with no warning or explanation, when elements of designs long gone by still linger, and when a different set of “guiding principles” seems to be in place depending on what Windows Live page we visit, things become less simple, and certainly less powerful.

This is a sampling of the current state of Live Search pages, all taken in the space of a few minutes.  While none of these pages is offensive or poorly designed, is it a common experience?

livesearch1_thumb Opinion

 live.com home page

livesearch2_thumb Opinion

live.com search results

 livesearch3_thumb Opinion

 msn.com home page

livesearch4_thumb Opinion

maps.live.com 

livesearch5_thumb Opinion

home.live.com 

livesearch6_thumb Opinion

my.live.com

Note that there are four different “search buttons”, two different “orbs” (and four different sizes), search boxes with and without subcategories (web, image, maps, etc), and 6 different banner backgrounds.

One part of the problem is that without any insights or any visible strategy to go by, we have no idea whether these are works in progress, or whether some of these pages will soon (or ever) be redesigned, or if this is the work of one design team, or many, or any at all.  Some transparency would go a long way here.  If these are in transition, fine.  Just let us know what’s going on (and move fast to get everyone “on the same page”).

Of course a unified search experience won’t vault Live Search up in the rankings, or make searches more relevant, or may not even be necessary at all, for that matter.  In our opinion, however, it might make for a better experience, and that can’t be bad.

For a tour of elements of the new Live Search, check out http://www.newlivesearch.com/