Viewzi starts with the idea that there are sometimes better ways to present data than in a list of links format. If you’re searching for a video, for example, isn’t it better for you to see a screen full of videos rather than a list of links?
“Viewzi presents the right data the right way,” explained Brandon Cotter, who bears the title of Chief Viewzer. “The Internet has changed dramatically, but from the user’s perspective, search has not fundamentally changed in 10 years. Our goal is to provide users with a unique and engaging way to discover information. Search used to be boring – we want to make it a bit more fun.”
The best way to check out a visual search engine is to see it in action. Here’s the welcome screen for Viewzi:
Sorry, I had to crop and resize to fit. The image leads to a video about the site. But since I’m the sort that likes to go hands-on right away, let’s start taking a look at the many different views of Viewzi.
Viewzi is actually a search aggregator with a variety of visual interfaces. It limits its search to the sites most likely to be relevant to what you’re looking for. How does it figure that out? That information is proprietary. But you can also choose the views you want to use manually.
I wish I could show you a video of Viewzi in action; static images aren’t going to do it justice. After you put in your search query, you’re brought to a screen that shows you 16 different kinds of search views. They’re not all on the screen at once, however; they’re in a long ribbon that only shows four views at a time. The ribbon moves depending on where you put your mouse, so you can go back and forth smoothly along its length. Want to take a closer look at what one of the views offers? Hover your mouse over it, and that view gets larger.
If you want a little more control, there’s a translucent slider that lets you move the ribbon more directly. Here’s an image to show you what I mean about the ribbon and the slider (cropped again; you can actually see slightly more views per screen than I’m showing here):
See that slider at the bottom? It doesn’t produce the blue arrows on the sides unless you hover over it. If you look closely, you can just make out the darker “dots” within the slider. Each one stands for a view, and the ones that are visible on your screen are the ones that the slider is hovering over.
Now I’m going to show you what happens when you hover your cursor over a view.
The view gets nice and big, and gives you some additional information. While you could always see the name of the view, hovering over it tells you the exact sources that Viewzi searches. For the Basic Photo View shown here, for example, Viewzi searches Flickr and Riya.
So it’s worth keeping in mind that when you choose a particular view, you also choose where to search. This means you might want (or need) to perform several searches to find something. That shouldn’t be too much of a problem, though; as other reviewers have observed, Viewzi’s interface is very smooth and fun to play with.
For my original search, the quote “I have a bad feeling about this,” I’m going to try out the Four Sources View. That view searches Google, Ask, MSN, and Yahoo.
Each search engine’s results are color-coded, and you can click on the right arrow (in gray in the above screen shot) for more results. You can get a closer look at each page by hovering over the result. Check out the next screen shot to see how well that works.
Oh, by the way, do you see that strip at the top? It lets you choose a different view if you weren’t satisfied with the way the data was presented to you. And you can’t make it out well in this screen shot, but Viewzi also credits the developer who created the particular view you’re using – it’s in white lettering in between the ribbon of views at the top and the view you’re using. This one was created by Chris Mancini, for example. That’s a nice touch.
What if you’re not happy with the view you chose? That’s easy to remedy; simply go to the strip at the top and click on the view you want. Viewzi helps you out here by giving you a larger image of whichever view you hover over, and brightening the colors for that view (you’ll notice that ribbon of views at the top in the last screen shot showed muted hues for the ribbon of views to avoid distracting you from what you’re doing).
Since I’m feeling a little sentimental about those blue links, I decided to change to the text view, which searches Google and Yahoo, and gives the Alexa traffic ranking of the site. Though you might not be able to tell from the screen shot, this is a great view to use if you’ve mislaid your glasses.
You can’t tell how awesome this particular view is from just the screen shot. You get a quick sentence from the site, the Alexa traffic ranking, where Viewzi found the site (Google, Yahoo, or both), and the thumbnail on the left. Try hovering over those thumbnails, and sure enough, Viewzi shows you a larger view. Sometimes this works fairly well, and gives you a great view of the website (and a good idea as to whether it’s worth clicking through). Other times it doesn’t, but that’s not really Viewzi’s fault; some sites just don’t shrink well.
It’s fortunate that Viewzi made it easy to change views, because not every view will yield results for every query. For example, if we take my original query and put it into the Amazon Book View, we get distinctly unsatisfying results:
I’ve shown you just three of the sixteen views that Viewzi offers. In the next part, I’ll show you some of the other views and what they can turn up for you. I’ll also provide more information on Viewzi’s plans, and some speculation about Viewzi’s future. See you then!