Yahoo is launching a number of search enhancements this evening that start to deliver on the UI innovation that the company has been promising since the Microsoft search deal was announced. It’s part of Yahoo’s bid to remain relevant in search by spicing up the user experience and trying to bring more utility to page one.
Many of these new features were previewed at the recent “Runway” event last month. The two biggest changes or enhancements that users will immediately notice involve image search and a new “accordion” module at the top of search results (though it doesn’t always appear).
Do a search for “Toy Story 3″ or “Lady Gaga,” for example, and you’ll see this:
Users can flip through panes that contain different types of information. In the case of Toy Story 3 there are “overview,” “video” and “Twitter” tabs. The content types and number of tabs will vary and be relevant to the query. In the case of Lady Gaga there are additional “events” tabs and “album” tabs. The events tab contains a link to buy tickets. There are also horizontal tabs with related content on top.
Search SVP Shashi Seth told me that there will be more such transactional elements in search results going forward. It doesn’t currently exist but one could easily imagine an embedded OpenTable link tied to a specific restaurant query. And there are other scenarios in which this accordion module could enable actions or transactions. Travel is another category that quickly comes to mind.
I spoke to Seth about the potential appearance of display and rich media advertising in this area of the page. (Earlier today I moderated the SMX East panel on search and display, so it’s on my brain.) He said that isn’t the case at launch but Yahoo has thoughts along those lines in certain commercial contexts.
This module also enables “discovery” of information in a way that traditional search results do not. There’s a mixture of push and pull going on here, which is very interesting. Accordingly it goes beyond the “smart box”/”one box” universal search approach favored in the past couple of years.
Consistent with the notion of making page one more “actionable,” Yahoo is integrating what it calls “quick apps” into search farther down the page. The first of these is a Netflix app that will open a window and enable “Netflix members to add movies to their Queue right from the Search results page.” You could also watch trailers and theoretically stream entire movies in this window.
The philosophy behind all these moves involves taking search “from finding to doing.”
As mentioned, image search is being revamped. Image pages get a new more visually engaging and “immersive” environment. Yahoo is putting more slideshows (from Flickr and other Yahoo sites) in image search results that then lead to pages that look like this:
Beyond this, Yahoo image search will allow people to “view personally meaningful public Facebook albums from friends when they sign-in and connect their Yahoo! accounts to Facebook.”
Finally Yahoo says that iPhone and Android users will see faster and “more sophisticated” search results built on HTML5. The new Yahoo Finance app is an example of this.
This collection of new features and tools rolls out immediately in the US and then globally next year.
Yahoo has been promising UI/UX innovation for many months and these new capabilities represent something of a down payment. However the company says it will continue to do more and go further over the coming months. This “is just the beginning.”
Seth told me that user reaction to the accordion module in user testing had been very positive. What do you think?