In the current Google Age, we tend to default our web searching to one tool which finds what we’re looking for every time. Many of us subconsciously believe Google is the answer to Bono’s soul-seeking lyrics from 1987. With such a prominent player in the field, it’s easy to dismiss the improvement efforts of other search engines as inconsequential. Everyone seems to be stripping it down, playing catch-up to Google. Why would we make the effort to switch our search engine of choice when we haven’t seen much innovation for some time now?
I have no qualms with Google. In fact, I, like many connected residents of this world, rather like it, and use it on an almost daily basis to help navigate the terabytes of data stored on machines throughout the world. Lest we become more robotic than the machines which crawl our sites, I also see innate value in remaining aware of Google’s competition and the evolution of other search engines, for better or worse. By keeping our eyes open, we notice if and when better choices enter (or re-enter) the scene.
With that in mind, consider the New Yahoo! Search. Redesigned with many of the [now] usual suspects, like tabbed views, image search, and a few customizable result preferences. A tour full of marketing-speak fills in the details. Of worthwhile note are the new “search shortcuts” which pull in additional relevant information above standard results, like city maps, weather, news, or dictionary definitions. Type the name of a Yahoo! product/site into the search box, followed by a simple “!“, and you’ll be forwarded directly to that site. Both shortcuts are obvious moves to cross-promote and drive traffic to the wealth of content and services Yahoo! provides.
As for the appearance of any Web Standards in this new design, Yahoo! avoids jumping in head first. Rather they choose to wade into the water slowly, adding in reliance on CSS one piece at a time. Stylesheet effects on the Search start page are minimal, setting margins, padding, and type treatment. The start page still uses nested tables three levels deep to create the tabs and search forms. The small shifts to CSS are more evident on result pages, where background colors, rules, and ad columns are also stylesheet-driven. Considering the traffic Yahoo! gets, I would think they’d be warming up to even heavier use of CSS and leaner HTML, if only for the benefits of improved accessibility and file-size reduction.
Oddities of large-scale portal design and politics aside, I really like some of the new features Yahoo! pulls off for this revision. If I were Google, I’d keep a close eye on the second string.