Ask X

Ask X is a “double-secret sandbox for testing Ask experiences of the future“. It is quite a nice looking search engine, with a nice, clean, google-esque search page.

The results page is split into three panels:
  • The central panel is the usual results, which is defaulted to web search. You get the usual sponsored links, Smart Answers and search results, plus the Ask binoculars for previewing results. When you hover the mouse over a result, you get a little page icon with a green cross, which is an ‘Add to My Stuff’ link. Click on it, and the icon changes to a little page with a red tick, this then links you to your ‘My Stuff’ page.
  • On the left is a static search panel, which contains options for selecting web, image, video etc searches, a search box, and options to Narrow, or Expand your search, Related Search items, and Search suggestions as you type.
  • The right hand side panel gives a preview of other types of search results,for example, thumbnails of the first three image results, blogs, videos, encyclopedia (Wikipedia), shopping, etc.
I searched for mango smoothie (as I was drinking one at the time!), and the results were interesting. On the left I had Narrow options: A recipe for Mango Smoothie, Banana and Mango Smoothie, How to Make a Mango Smoothie and Strawberry Smoothie. On the right, I had Shopping results for smoothie makers. And in the middle, I had two sponsored results, and then lots of web results for smoothie recipes.
Then I did a search on The Number 23. The results were the expected mix of items about the new film, about the “number 23 enigma”, the wikipedia and imdb entries. The Narrowing options looked relatively useful – to do with numerology, and other numbers. The Expand options looked less related – Psalm 23, Jordan 23 and ‘Human Body has 23 what’. On the right I got three images of the number 23, a couple of news stores, some blog posts, and the Wikipedia entry for 23 (not “the number 23”).
I like the way the results page is split into sections. It all looks very nice, and the layout is clear and easy to read.
I also like the way that it gives you the options on the left for narrowing etc. and the right hand panel, gives examples of other types of resource results, which might point you to things you wouldn’t otherwise have bothered looking for/at. It is very easy to use.
The only real complaint I have is the lack of options on the main search page. You can’t select to search anything other than the default (web). You can swap the focus once you have the search results using the options in the left or right hand columns, but that means you have to mess around running the default web search first. Also if you want anything other than Video or Images, then you have to click on the More link in the left hand column. And you are limited by the results displayed in the right hand column (just because it doesn’t display a source type, doesn’t mean there were no results). It is nice to have the options to begin with.
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