Bing Testing Navigation Usability with Alternate SERP Format

  by James Svoboda
  March 4th, 2011

Yesterday, while I was researching our WebRanking Profile in Bing Webmaster Tools, I was served the following alternate header and top navigation format for Bing’s search engine results pages.

Alternate Test Top Header for Bing Search Engine Results Pages.

Alternate Test Top Header for Bing Search Engine Results Pages.

I just so happened to have an older browser tab opened at the same time from about 45 minutes earlier that I could compare the 2 versions.

Original Top Header for Bing Search Engine Results Pages on 2011-03-03 at around 8:45 PM CST.

Original Top Header for Bing Search Engine Results Pages on 2011-03-03 at around 8:45 PM CST.


This test was only live for about an hour before they reverted back to the original version.

Design & Usability Changes

A few things jump out with this test and it is apparent this is meant to be a design and usability test for a potential future SERP format. The first thing I noticed is that they are testing a white background for top navigation in Bing search engine result page. The white background gives the top navigation a dedicated area, makes the links stand out a little more and are easier to read (use).

Test format with white background for top navigation:

Bing.com Testing New White Background for Top Navigation in Search Engine Result Page

Original background for top navigation in SERP:

Bing.com Original Background for Top Navigation in Search Engine Result Page



The second thing that stands out to me is the shift of the Bing logo from the left hand side to the right, and the move of the focus of the background image from the middle to the right as well.

Original format with Bing logo on left and test format with the logo on the right side of SERPs:

Original SERP with Bing Logo on Left Side

Testing Bing Logo on Right Side



Once the logo was shifted to the right side in the tested format, they had space available to shift the Search Box and Tab Search Options on left side directly above Related Searches instead of in the middle. They also decided to increase the width of the search box from 400 pixels wide, to roughly 520 px.

Testing Search Box and Tab Search Options on Left Side Above Related Searches

The original location of the Search Box and Tab Search Options was in the middle of the page, directly above search listings.

Bing.com Original Search Box and Tab Search Options Directly above Search Listings


Considerations


While this was clearly just a test, I am not sure I can agree with this incarnation being a success. There are some appealing aspects and some not-so-appealing aspects to consider.

1. The white background on the top navigation is a good step in the right direction from a usability perspective. These links are easier to read in this format as they do not get washed out with the daily changing background pictures. Bing might want to consider a grayish-blue instead of the white. It would not stand out quite as much, but still be quite user friendly.

2. The logo on the right is not a common place to find one and if we learn only one thing from the recent Gawker redesign, it is that people like the familiar.

3. The Search Tabs get lost in this version as they look more like text then actual search options. Their original tab design was simple and clean. I would suggest they stick with something similar.

Cheers!

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