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Ask.com has relaunched itself as Ask3D, in what is among the more significant UI enhancements in the search field among the top four sites (G, Y, M, and A) in the last few years. I spoke to Jim Lanzone, CEO of Ask, on these changes and why they matter to the company.
The search results page becomes a three-panel page (hence the name 3D). Besides the text results, the page includes the related queries users might be looking for (in left column), and includes audio (music), video (tie-up with Blinkx), news, blogs (through its own Bloglines), weather and other kinds of searches in the right-most column, taking cues from other module-based services. Only, in this case, Ask.com results is dynamically changed based on queries and location (it does geo-targeting on “Events” section if you search for a music artist, for example). A list of all the new features is here. Ask.com homepage has also been redesigned, with more up-to-date icon based forms and all its options of the kinds of queries that can be done.
Lotsa Ajax stuff, with the idea to cram in all kinds of utilitarian searches within one page, first to increase user retention, and hopefully to increase search volume which will help Ask.com in the long run on the business side, as Lanzone explained to me. A lot of thought has gone into the new service, though I wish there was a way to turn off everything and just have a simple text search. One complaint: the “Sponsored Results” has too subtle a color gradation for them to be able to stand out compared to the organic listings.
Google last month started integrating/presenting video, image, news and book-search results in one screen, along with its text results.
A short two minute audio excerpt from Lazone, explaining why this change matters: