I’m still waiting for the promised official response from Microsoft about the entire prefilling of the search box thing that happened at MSN UK, as we wrote about last week. But via Threadwatch, MSN UK apparently has a blog about the — yes — MSN UK home page. There, MSN explains about the experiment, which has been stopped after users loudly complained that prefilling the search box is bad.
As a reminder, MSN UK started prefilling their search box with a query like this:
At first, it seemed like this was some promotional deal with the BBC. But then other prefills started showing for "Cricket World Cup" and "Euro 2008 results." That made it seem less like an ad deal and more like something MSN was trying.
Indeed, MSN UK blogged on March 30 that this was an experiment, one dubbed a failure:
Our small experiment with pre-populating the search box on the homepage didn’t last very long. We pulled this from the page today after receiving feedback from you that this wasn’t a good move. Your comments were backed up by our click stats which showed no increase in usage of the search bar. In fact, our click numbers were down slightly – a major signal to us that we need take action.
Many of you found a pre-loaded search bar intrusive and did not like us trying to predict what you were interested in searching for. Having to actively delete content from the bar was also negatively received.
A follow up post from today says:
First of all, I’ll just re-enforce the point Nicole mentioned recently about the experiment we ran where we pre-populated the search bar at the top of the page with an ‘of the day’ phrase such as ‘Apprentice BBC’ or ‘Cricket World Cup’. Your comments on the initiative were pretty unequivocal – ‘Every time I log in, ‘The Apprentice BBC’ is in my search box. Not very clever and very annoying… Just as bad as SPAM’ said one user, whilst other critics used the phrases ‘absolute disgrace’ ‘very annoying’ and ‘unwanted marketing’ when describing the move. The negative feedback, combined with the click statistics which showed that the move wasn’t working from a usage point of view, meant that we acted quickly and put an end to the experiment just a couple of days after it had begun. Without your valuable feedback we wouldn’t have had such a clear picture about the effectiveness of the trial, so please don’t hesitate in future to let us know when we take a wrong step. Hopefully any future ideas which we try will be better received!