Ask.com Gets It Right With Ask X
Be aware: my search geekiness and Ask-love are in full effect today. Please don’t let it scare you away.
When Ask.com launched AskCity a few weeks back, Barry Diller not-so-eloquently revealed that Ask.com and its homepage would go under "a major update". Well, it looks as if we’re seeing the first phase of that now.
While searching on Ask last night, I saw an unassuming link in the top right asking me to try out the new interface (users can now go to http://www.askx.com to check it out). I attempted to gather up some screenshots and tell you all about it this morning, but unfortunately I suffer from advanced screenshot retardation (ASR) and was unable. [Yes, I've tried to explain about just pressing the printscreen button. --Susan] – Mine is most obviously broken.
Fortunately for you, Read/WriteWeb is far more technologically savvy than I am and they were able to produce some screenshots and even offered up a good walk-through of its features.
Despite my ASR, this all gets me very excited.
Ask is calling the new user interface "Ask X" and refers to it on their new About page as a "double secret sandbox for Ask experiences of the future". So is this just an interface update or the equivalent to Google’s SearchMash – a place where they can test stuff that they’re not sure about? I’m not sure.
The difference between Ask X and Google’s SearchMash is that Ask X is totally awesome.
The results page interface uses a three pane system. The left side acts as your "control panel" where users can quickly narrow, expand or refine their search. In the middle, you’ll find your AJAX-flavored search results where searchers can take advantage of Ask’s Binoculars, Smart Answers, and other tools, as well as instantly save the URL. The way I’ve seen it, there are typically two sponsored results on top, with a few more down at the bottom of the SERP.
The right panel is what separates Ask X from everyone else. Without even asking for it, users can preview other type of search results like images, shopping, video, news, blogs, shopping and more. Check out the Ask X SERP for a search for the term "prison break". (Quiet you; it’s all about Wentworth Miller.)
Awesome, right? It’s like performing six searches at the same time. For me, this is where the search engines need to go.
I’m in love with Ask X. The homepage is clean, but attractive; the SERP does a great job of highlighting Ask’s vertical searches and providing me with additional information, and it does a stellar job of distinguishing Ask from its competitors. With the new UI, all of their services and tools are displayed on one page. It’s a very smart way to seamlessly integrate all your vertical offerings, while still making the page usable.
Congrats on this one guys, it’s very cool. Now if only we could get that API…
UPDATE: Gary Price pointed me to his Ask X Users Guide over at ResourceShelf. Thanks for the tip, Gary!