As Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) persists in its attempts to gain traction in the search engine market, where it remains a distant third behind leader Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO), the Redmond-based software giant announced on Wednesday the release of an update to its Live Search Home Page.
The new design, notes Microsoft Live Search Official Blog, features background images that will change frequently, augmented with “hotspots” (high or special activity within a specific area). These interactive areas highlight parts of the image and help you explore search results related to the highlighted area.
Hotspots gleam to the user when the page first loads then fade into the image. Users can discover them again by moving their mouse over them, revealing details about the image and a link to a related search result. To ensure that users can start a search immediately, Microsoft’s base page loads first with the images and hotspots loading quickly afterward. Users on a broadband connection may not notice the two steps.
Microsoft points out that extensive user research and exploration of many concepts with its customers pointed them in the direction for this design. It also adds that users who have tested this new home page have found it both engaging and a great place to start a search:
We want the page to be a great place to start a search and also to intrigue and inform as well. We think hotspots will help users discover parts of Live Search they might not know while not distracting from the core purpose of the page — searching.
The release of the new home page is programmed for the U.S. only, with more markets to follow in the future.
Microsoft has invested heavily in improving its search tools. This latest update, in my view, will be received positively from mainstream audiences. In addition, the new functionality of Live Search clickable areas, does not seem to have a slow down effect for the user.
However, this won’t impact in any significant way Microsoft’s market share against both Yahoo and Google.
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