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Thursday, January 20, 2005

MSN Search Interface Leaves Much to be Desired

Yes, the new MSN Search is here, and it's a Big Story. But, if Microsoft truly wants to build a better search engine than Google, it needs to work on a few things. Specifically:

1. The Search home page. What's with the giant blue box surrounding the keyword search textbox and buttons? It makes you feel constricted or something. I appreciate the attempt to make the page clean and simple, but I would lose the blue box. It doesn't seem harmonious with the overall page.

And because they chose the same blue box as the header on the search results pages, the links to other search types (Web, Images, etc.) are white. That's a bit disorienting to me. It doesn't feel right.

2. The "Next" button. It's more difficult to navigate the search results pages than it should be because MSN's "Next" button is just a simple text link, tucked away in the bottom right-hand corner. It should be more prominent and easier to click.

3. The Search Results link color. The blue they've chosen is a bit hard to read, I think.

4. The Search Results font size. Too. Damn. Big. And I never thought I'd say this, but the sponsored link font size is too small. I'm betting MSN would see a higher clickthrough rate on their PPC ads if the font size there matched the font size of the natural results.

5. Search Relevancy. I don't why other industry watchers are saying that MSN's new search results seem just as relevant as Google's. I disagree. Maybe I'm just too accustomed to what Google tells me is relevant, but in some limited tests, I've found that MSN's relevancy is considerably lower than Google's and even Yahoo's.

Despite my critiques, I'm actually impressed by MSN's new search engine. I'm sure Microsoft will continue improving it as time goes by. And who knows, maybe MSN's introduction of the Search Builder will help spur Google to jazz up its aging interface as well!

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




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