Bing vs. Google: A user experience perspective

by Mru Kodali on 5 June 2009

Microsoft’s taking on Google on its home turf with its new search engine Bing. And Acer’s launching laptops with Android, Google’s operating system, which has traditionally been Microsoft’s territory. How does the new kid on the search block fare in terms of user experience?

bing_smallBing uses powerful imagery that’s eye catching although whether that’s a good or bad thing for search remains to be seen. Google’s always gone down the minimalist route when it comes to visual design. Interestingly, Bing’s background images seem to change almost daily, so a bit more frequently than the Google holiday logos.

Bing’s search button doesn’t have a visible text label associated with it. It relies on a magnifying glass icon to do the job. In fact, there isn’t a single mention of the word search on the entire page! I’d say spelling it out never hurt anyone.

google-even-moreBing’s ‘More’ search options button takes the user to a page that bizarrely shows just 1 additional item. They’d do well to include this extra ‘xRank’ option on the actual search page itself – 1 more link isn’t going to overwhelm users. Google handles additional search options well, with a ‘More’ drop down that lets the user see exactly what else there is, right there on the page. It’s only past ‘Even more’ that Google takes users to a different page entirely.

bing-result-previewThe feather in Bing’s cap is its preview feature on the search results page. This is a nifty little feature as it saves users to-ing and fro-ing between the search results page and the websites. Till now, the only way to explore the results in a bit more detail was to leave the search engine and go to the actual pages. An area that this preview’s great for is online comparison shopping. Imagine quickly being able to see the differences right there on the page and making a decision. The downside is that its design’s quite subtle with a vertical bar that’s easily missed if one doesn’t hover to the right of the results. It’s more likely to be an accidental discovery than an intuitive one. So while it’s ingenious, its visibility can certainly be improved upon.

All in all, the differences between Bing and Google seem minor with the exception of Bing’s preview. But this may be all that’s needed to attract users away from Google. The final verdict will of course be the people’s, so let’s wait and see how Bing fares in the popularity stakes. Meanwhile, have you tried Bing? How did you find it? Tell us about your experiences.

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