The design of search

August 24, 2008

Google disrupted search partly through the use of design. Of course it was the search algorithm PageRank that was the big technical breakthrough followed by AdWords and AdSense but the simplicity of the interaction was also key to getting users to weave search into every aspect of their internet behavior. If you want to know more about how the Google interaction developed then check out Bill Moggridge's book Designing Interactions. Google took the world by storm but is that the end of the design of search?

A new search engine by the name of Cuil indicates not. I love Cuil because it uses design thinking to create a better search experience. Yes, it also has some technical innovations that allows it to search more of the internet than Google or other competitors but the big breakthrough for me is that Cuil presents information in a way that is more useful and interesting. Instead of creating a long list of results it lays them out a bit like the page of a newspaper. It creates pages of links that are related and displays them as tabs and it also creates categories that are displayed in a box. The final piece is that Cuil integrates images with the search results so that you can scan visually as well as by text.

I haven't spent enough time with Cuil yet to know whether it does a better job of getting to that one specific thing but I do know it is far better for searches where you are not sure what you are looking for. It is great for browsing and takes you to links you might never have thought to look for or couldn't describe with specific search terms.

Check it out. It may just be the next evolution of the design of search.