Google recently confirmed that they have made a change to their interface. For certain keywords they will show 3 related results inserted into the main results. For example, here’s what you see when you search for tokenize.
There have been reports of this for quite some time, so Google have obviously done a reasonable amount of testing with this before they decided to roll it out to everyone. However, I don’t like it. I find them intrusive and the times I have seen them appear I was frustrated – I wanted to see results for the term I typed in – not for what Google thought I wanted to see.
I think something like this can significantly enhance the user experience but it needs to be less intrusive. Most other search engines chose to show related searches but few of them have got it exactly right. I like Yahoo’s interface where they show related searches below the search box.
This is nice and simple – but suffers from the problem that all the related search terms contain the word insulin, graphically demonstrated if you see all the related searches, e.g for insulin:
Ask have almost got it right – but chose to complicate their interface by grouping the related searches that expand or narrow your search or are related names. This is cool from a geeks perspective but I don’t think people care whether they’re expanding or narrowing their search. If a related search term that expands your search is more useful then it should be shown at the top of the list.
AOL used to use a similar concept – of clustering – from Vivisimo but when I looked just now I didn’t see it. They did show some related terms – but it searched only AOL results. MSN doesn’t offer anything like this.
There are some, enlightened smaller search engines who have got it right IMHO. For example search.com and mamma.com show related terms on the right hand side of the results. You just click them to fire off another search It’s simple, non-intrusive and really useful.
Of course, I am biased because we provide the related searches for those enlightened search engines :-). But I am truthfully less than impressed with Google’s effort.