Google`s New Look Offers Search Options

After many months of testing, search giant Google unveiled a new look for their search results pages. Now, whenever users perform a search, a helpful left column appears along with the results. It offers a variety of ways to filter what you see.

Many of the filters used were already available as options across the top; indeed, those options are still there. You can still decide going in that you want to search for images, videos, maps, or use other specialized searches. Once you actually enter your search, though, that left column offers some interesting ways to narrow down your results.

The column starts with the familiar options from the top. But then the more interesting options come into play. You can search books, blogs, discussions, and more for your topic. You can control your results by time, and even choose a custom time range. You can specify results that are nearby (another form of localized search). But that’s just the beginning.

The search options column changes with every choice you make, in context. Suppose you put in a search for “brass goggles,” and then clicked “images.” You’ll get a page full of eye wear that will make any steampunk lover drool – but more importantly, that left column will offer you new filtering options. You’ll be able to sort by image size (medium, large, icon, “larger than…” and “exactly…”), image type (face, photo, clip art or line drawing), and color.

Other choices based on type of content also yield changes in your options. Choosing video lets you pick from several different durations, when the video was posted, the quality, whether or not the video is close captioned, and so forth. Options also get juggled depending on your initial search. Someone searching for “tidal waves,” for example, will see the types of content filters they’re offered in an order different from, say, someone searching for “iPad.”

This makes a certain amount of sense. Someone searching for “tidal waves” is more likely to be looking for educational information, while someone searching for an “iPad” is probably interested in buying one – so the “Images” option is presented first for the first search, but “Shopping” is first for the second search.

If you’ve gotten tired of the standard ten blue links, there’s one more option worth mentioning. Under “Standard view” you have the option to change to “Related searches,” “Wonder wheel” and “Timeline.” “Related searches” puts a list of hyperlinked terms at the top that Google thinks are related to your search (a list similar to this had been appearing at the bottom of searches). A search for “brass goggles” turns up a related searches list that includes steampunk, girl genius, boing boing, and more. “Timeline” attempts to build a timeline relating to your query, with dates and links to related stories. “Wonder wheel” offers a genuinely different view, with your query in the center of a circle of links that emanate from it like the spokes of a wheel, and a list of links on the right hand side rather than ads. Clicking a spoke shifts it into the center.
The point of the change that will be most interesting to search engine watchers is that Google is adopting a three-column format after all of the other major search engines have adopted it. Ask introduced it in 2007 as Ask 3D; both Microsoft and Yahoo adopted it in 2009. The experience of using Google’s search options column, however, seems qualitatively different. Apparently, Google is not copying others; they were just waiting until they could get it right.

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