Taking A Look At Ask X

    December 19, 2006

Can a cool, sleek new design garner enough buzz to cause an upheaval in the search engine popularity ranks? Keep in mind that we do live in a society where the general public WILL respond to the way something looks if it’s compelling enough (cars, iPods, mobile phones, clothes, celebrities).

I’m not sure if that’s the approach being taken, but if Ask.com is trying to turn heads with their recently unleashed Ask X re-imagining, they’ve certainly accomplished their goal. Sporting an impressive red-to-silverish-gray gradient background, the new Ask.com UI is certainly nice to look at, but does the new-look Ask as functional as it is attractive?

Not only does Ask X have a cool new look, it also has some very interesting, three-panel search results. A quick search for the word “search” shows off these new SERPs quite nicely. On the left-hand side there is a suggest-a-search panel that offers suggestions that refine or expand the initial query. The middle pane contains the actual search results, presented in the standard SERP style with a bold linked title and black-text description underneath.

Ask X

Each result has an AJAXed Save to MyStuff bookmarklet and a preview page set of binoculars underneath the descriptor text. At the top of the middle pane are sponsored listings that appear in a blue box and the sponsored results disclaimer.

The right column contains related images and a definition of the word(s) being searched. There are also relevant news headlines; shopping links; and related blog posts listed housed in this particular area, making it the column of associated information. To test the functionality of the right column, I searched the phrase, “search engines rule the world,” and was given a selection of videos that were somewhat related. Interestingly enough, Blinkx.com is supplying these videos.

It’s nice to see that even if your search is quite refined, Ask will still try and serve the searcher something related, which demonstrates the developers efforts towards making Ask.com as user-friendly as possible. Currently, Ask X is undergoing what Google users would call a beta period and the Ask braintrust is requesting feedback from those of you who have tested the new UI. Let them know what you think.

Considering how well Ask X performs, the question becomes will the new-look Ask replace the current incarnation? That isn’t known at this time, but if the feedback is positive enough, I certainly don’t see why not. Whatever happens, I do hope they keep the design the Ask X homepage sports. It’s awfully impressive.

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Chris Richardson is a search engine writer and editor for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest search news.