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May 16, 2007

Google Launches New Design, Universal Search and a Site for Search Experiments

At the Searchology event that happened today at the Googleplex (and is still available here), Google talked about the past, the present and the future of search. They explained that search is a difficult subject with a lot of problems yet to be solved, but search is still Google's core competency.

Universal Search

Google launched the universal search that adds news, images, videos, books and local results in the standard results. "Google's vision for universal search is to ultimately search across all its content sources, compare and rank all the information in real time, and deliver a single, integrated set of search results that offers users precisely what they are looking for."

This screenshot shows a video integrated in the main search results and a Plus Box that lets you view the video inline. And in the case of Nosferatu, you can see the whole movie.

New Design

The interface we talked about last month will also be live for everyone. Google adds a horizontal navigation menu to all of its services, but the menu will feature different links based on the page you're currently viewing. Everything will go live in a few hours.

Search experiments

But the most exciting launch for those who try to find all the new Google features is Google Experimental, a new place from Google Labs where you can see new features and layouts tested for the search results. You can play with them and send feedback so that Google makes them better and they eventually become a part of the Google search experience.

As anticipated here, Google tests new ways to view results. "With the timeline and map views, Google's technology extracts key dates and locations from select search results so you can view the information in a different dimension." So you can view the location a page refers to on a map. There's also a timeline view that shows results sorted by the most important dates included in the pages.

Another cool new feature is keyboard shortcuts for the search results. For example, you can navigate in the list of results by pressing j and k and visiting the selected result by just pressing enter. Like in vi and Gmail.

Google also tests two designs: one that places the navigation links and the refinements to the left:

... and one that moves them to the right:

Now you don't have to change your cookies to test new designs anymore, you can just use them from Google Experimental. That doesn't mean Google's random experiments end here: they'll still test features on small samples of users, but those who want to see the new features have a Google site to quench their curiosity.

Searching for meaning

But Google's experiments with search continue. In the next weeks, Google's quality will improve by including results from modified queries that are likely to produce better results.

They'll also translate your query into 11 other languages and show results from these searches if they're relevant. Just in case you search for [French recipes] and the best French recipes are... in French. Using Google Translate, you'll be able to read the pages in your native language. As if everyone spoke a single language.

To sum up

Google's search results will be better because they'll include content from specialized search engines. Google will translate your query to different languages and even slightly alter it to show better results. It will also be easier to navigate to other Google sites and to go to the most appropriate service for your query.

This blog is not affiliated with Google.