Google announced a revamp of its mobile search interface last week at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. The event was called “Inside Search” and covered a number of innovations to both the mobile and desktop search
Mobile search – Places enhancement
According to Google, searches for nearby places is on the increase as more people search on the go on mobiles. In response to this, mobile places has now been enhanced with some icons allowing easy access to restaurants, bars and coffee shops in the vicinity.
Shortcut icons appear at the bottom of the mobile homepage. Tap “More”, to select from additional popular categories like shopping, ATMs, gas stations, etc.
On the results page, the usual map pages is displayed with markers for where you are and the places around you. However now, when you scroll through the results, the map remains at the top of the page and adjusts automatically to the listing you are looking at. Tapping on a result will quickly show you more about a place including reviews and other useful details.
Places homepage (www.google.com/m/places).
Desktop Search enhancements
The desktop version will be rolling out a couple of new features — voice search and drag-and-drop image. Then to speed up the results of that search we have the introduction of Instant search. If you are a Chrome user, these options should be rolling out these features over the next couple of weeks. Each of the features mentioned below are all aimed at enhancing the speed of search, shaving seconds off of each one.
Voice Search has been available on mobile for some time now but now when you see a microphone icon next to the search bar you can speak your query instead of typing it. This is going to help especially with those hard to spell queries.
In tests Google recognizes words, phrases and names, for the most part. However, the search engine does have issues with special characters, unusual names and URLs.
One nice feature — you can use the Google calculator feature with voice search.
With Google Goggles on the mobile you could snap a picture and then search on it. You will be able to pull an image into the search bar on the desktop and Google will give you its best guess for what that image represents. Google is also planning to release Chrome and Firefox extensions to search on an image via the right click of a mouse in the browser.
The redesigned interface lets you scroll through 1,000 images at once (with larger image previews), and eliminates text on the image search results so you can just focus on the visuals.
Voice and Image search are only one part of the equation however as once you’ve searched for what you’re looking for the next step in your search is to sift through the results and pick one. But once you’ve picked a result, you click, and then wait again for the page to load—for an average of about five seconds. Google Fellow Amit Singhal, who leads Google’s search algorithm and ranking team, announced that “Speed is still the killer app” With Instant Search the top results of the search get pre-cached, allowing for near-instant page display and shaving vital seconds off the average search.
Here’s the YouTube video Google made of the whole event.