New search site – Imagine Live Search

A new Live Search site was brought to our attention recently (thanks Jamie), What’s obviously different is the sparse homepage, notably the lack of vertical search options, which directs the users focus to the search box and nothing else.

Diving in further, search results are different too. There are no vertical search options present under the search box, however they appear in the right hand column with suggested results pre-populated. Users can see the results from these other search options alongside the main web search results, allowing users to quickly refine their query as they become more aware of what each search option offers them. 

Screenshot (click to enlarge)

While the related searches option is already present on the main Live Search site, the addition of Image Search and News Search is a nice touch. The great part is that Windows Live Maps is embedded, auto-detecting your location and presenting local search results based on your query. Features such as panning and zooming are also enabled. This could have several useful applications, notably for search queries where the combination of web search for reviews and local search for accessibility is key, eg restaurants or nights out.

As Jamie noticed though, the page does have a few downsides. The Live Maps shows your location, not a location specified in your search, eg London restaurants. Additionally the site has been having loading problems, and results aren’t always available.

I asked Mira Lane from the Core Search team (not to be confused with Windows Live Core) about the site, here’s what she had to say:

“We call this the ‘assisted trial page’. We send a small portion of our marketing traffic (from banner ads and such) to this site to give them more context to learn about search. There are no ads, for example, and instead we have a small flash tour. It’s not a product feature or indicative of any product team direction or thinking.”

With Google just announcing its Experimental Search pages, (Danny Sullivan has the details) the move towards “universal search” is definitely an upcoming area, even if this site isn’t it for Microsoft. Try the “Right-hand contextual search navigation” and Imagine Live Search and let us know your thoughts.