Google have come up with a set of experimental new search features aimed at improving the search experience. I’ve been playing with them and have to admit they are really cool!
The first is the ability to view search results on a timeline or on a map. Google do this by extracting dates and locations from the search results so that the information can be viewed in a different way.
For example a search for Olympics, and specifying a map view plots the locations the event has been held in on a map. Whilst searching for information on the civil rights movement, and specifying a timeline view will highlight key dates and events on a timeline.
The next new feature, is the enabling of keyboard shortcuts to navigate around search results. After initially using this, I can’t stop! A small arrow is rendered next to a search result, pressing the ‘J’ key moves to the next results, whilst pressing ‘K’ moves to the previous. You can open a search result by pressing ‘O’ or just hitting enter. You can also press ‘/’ to have the cursor jumpt to the search box, whilst ‘ESC’ moves the cursor out of the search box. Try it for yourselves here, it’s really easy to use and if your like and means you dont need to use a mouse at all to navigate around search results.
Another new feature is the addition of facets to search results, ( which Google oddly refer to as left hand navigation? ). Basically the left hand pane lists a set of groupings, for example content type, patents, products, news etc. The left hand pane also list’s a set of related searches. Together both these bits of information allow you to narrow your search, in order to find whatever it is your looking for, hopefully, quicker. This feature is also available on the right hand side of the screen.
It’s encouraging to see that Google are trying very hard to improve search, not only by providing mechanisms that should enable ordinary users to get to the content they are interested in faster, but they are also thinking about how to improve the experience. The keyboard shortcuts, whilst on the face of it might look simple, actually increases your productivity because you don’t need to interact with a mouse at all.