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Microsoft’s taking on Google on its home turf with its new search engine Bing. And Acer’s launching laptops with Android, Google’s operating system, which has traditionally been Microsoft’s territory. How does the new kid on the search block fare in terms of user experience?

bing_smallBing uses powerful imagery that’s eye catching although whether that’s a good or bad thing for search remains to be seen. Google’s always gone down the minimalist route when it comes to visual design. Interestingly, Bing’s background images seem to change almost daily, so a bit more frequently than the Google holiday logos.

Bing’s search button doesn’t have a visible text label associated with it. It relies on a magnifying glass icon to do the job. In fact, there isn’t a single mention of the word search on the entire page! I’d say spelling it out never hurt anyone.

google-even-moreBing’s ‘More’ search options button takes the user to a page that bizarrely shows just 1 additional item. They’d do well to include this extra ‘xRank’ option on the actual search page itself – 1 more link isn’t going to overwhelm users. Google handles additional search options well, with a ‘More’ drop down that lets the user see exactly what else there is, right there on the page. It’s only past ‘Even more’ that Google takes users to a different page entirely.

bing-result-previewThe feather in Bing’s cap is its preview feature on the search results page. This is a nifty little feature as it saves users to-ing and fro-ing between the search results page and the websites. Till now, the only way to explore the results in a bit more detail was to leave the search engine and go to the actual pages. An area that this preview’s great for is online comparison shopping. Imagine quickly being able to see the differences right there on the page and making a decision. The downside is that its design’s quite subtle with a vertical bar that’s easily missed if one doesn’t hover to the right of the results. It’s more likely to be an accidental discovery than an intuitive one. So while it’s ingenious, its visibility can certainly be improved upon.

All in all, the differences between Bing and Google seem minor with the exception of Bing’s preview. But this may be all that’s needed to attract users away from Google. The final verdict will of course be the people’s, so let’s wait and see how Bing fares in the popularity stakes. Meanwhile, have you tried Bing? How did you find it? Tell us about your experiences.

Comments

  • Malcolm Coles says

    I was a bit more damning than you! In particular, I think that preview box has rubbish usability.

    It’s impossible to see, and suffers from a severe diagonal mouse movement problem (ie when you move the mouse to get to it …. it vanishes).

    I came up with 12 fairly serious usability problems here: http://www.malcolmcoles.co.uk/blog/bing-usability-nightmare/

    5 June 2009 at 1:27 pm

  • Mru says

    Thank you for your comment. I can’t say that I faced the same issues as you with Bing’s preview box disappearing on hover (either in Internet Explorer or Firefox). Perhaps it’s to do with the browser settings?

    While I agree that only some of the preview results are informative, it is the first of its kind so I’m cutting Bing some slack. There’s certainly room for improvement in the type of information Bing’s returning on some preview results, but once Microsoft fix that I believe the potential benefits of a preview are substantial for things like online comparison shopping.

    5 June 2009 at 6:45 pm

  • Malcolm Coles says

    Do you not find it changes on a diagonal mouse movement (unless you’re careful)? It changes for me in both Firefox and Safari on a Mac, unless you move it in a dog leg way (all the way to the right and then up).

    8 June 2009 at 11:01 pm

  • Mru says

    I haven’t used Bing on a Mac so can’t comment about Safari but no problems on a PC in either Internet Explorer or Firefox.

    9 June 2009 at 5:34 pm

  • DannyP says

    Bling just doesn’t quite cut the mustard. It is hard to distinguish between the sponsored results at the top of the page and the organic results. I also found the preview function a little annoying and quite random in the information that it gave me.

    I did like the front page graphic which engaged me, but I also like Google’s ‘what you see is what you get’ methodology.

    Having worked for a start up search engine before, I know how powerful the Google brand is. People trust and respect it, even if they have no idea how it all works.

    As you say Mru, the people will decide and my gut feeling is that Google is just to many years ahead of Bling.

    10 June 2009 at 3:05 am

  • Mru says

    Interesting you should mention sponsored results on Bing, Danny. Eye tracking research just out says a greater proportion of users focussed on the sponsored results in the right hand column on Bing than on Google.

    That’s certainly good news for advertisers, but is it good news for users? If looking for transactional results and the sponsored results are tightly tailored then it could be a win-win. However, if looking for informational results, it might be annoying having attention drawn by the sponsored results on the right.

    10 June 2009 at 3:17 pm

  • GarykPatton says

    I have been looking looking around for this kind of information. Will you post some more in future? I’ll be grateful if you will.

    16 June 2009 at 4:48 am

  • George says

    I love the new preview feature in bing. though it’s gonna take a while for it to catch up with the big G. Still hasn’t indexed my article on stopping sweaty armpits yet though – which is a PR3 on google. Time will tell hey!

    25 June 2009 at 12:05 pm

  • Robert says

    I find the front page graphic distacts me. If I’m reading and typing a search phrase from paper and look back up at the screen to re-type my eye does not find my text as easy as it would for a white screen (i.e. Google).

    25 June 2009 at 12:13 pm

  • Mru says

    That’s interesting that the background may slow users down when reading and typing.

    Also, found this website which lets you compare, side by side, Google’s and Bing’s search results for the same word(s).

    21 July 2009 at 4:16 pm

  • mark says

    Bing is absolutely useless. I am searching for mine and my dads company, nothing. I suspect that, as any other Microsoft stuff, it will be the paid add sites which show up first. Not organic searching which is what Google do for a living and why they keep up their success.

    I do really not like the way they have slipped Bing into every single browser possible, making it hard to remove. It’s also on all those crappy softwares that people cant help installing when.

    I guess I will keep checking Bing to see my site ratings. I was in a netcafe the other day, there were loads of kids, all on Bing. Guess they are on it because its in the browser so perhaps tomorrows generation is gonna go Bing.

    I’m personally far from convinced!

    26 August 2009 at 8:48 pm

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