Tonight I stumbled upon what appears to be a brand new User Interface for Ask.com. I was doing some searches on Ask.com, when I noticed a link in the top right asking me to try out something called Ask X. Screenshot below:
When I clicked on the link, it regenerated my original query using a new interface - labeled Ask X. The following 3-pane UI displayed:
The 3-pane UI is pretty similar to the Ask City UI, which was launched a couple of weeks ago. Ask X appears to be live right now, at this domain: http://www.askx.com. There's no mention of it on the official Ask.com site, but there is an About page on Ask X which explains more:
"Thanks for stumbling upon Ask X, our double-secret sandbox for testing Ask experiences of the future.
In today's version of Ask X, you're not just getting back a list of links, but a slick, new three-panel interface (much like the new AskCity), combining great time-saving features like:
* Left: A search control panel that stays with you, complete with Zoom Related Search and Search Suggestions that update as you type.
* Middle: Results front and center to provide clutter-free information without having to scroll down the page, and Binoculars to preview results.
* Right: A preview of other types of search results, including video, news, images, blogs, shopping, encyclopedia and more."
I explored the new Ask X and was impressed with the slickness of the UI, which has a liberal dose of Ajax. Also it makes the range of topical information that Ask provides much easier to digest and navigate, when presented across 3 panes. For example here's a search on one of my music heroes, Lou Reed:
On the left, there are options to refine or expand your search (e.g. search for Uncle Lou's lyrics). In the center, the main search results are headed by a 'smart answer' about Lou - including options to search for music downloads and ringtones. And in the right pane is extra topical info: images, shopping, video (see below - this is new), and an excerpted Wikipedia profile of Lou.
Video search results are included in the right hand pane, a feature which is not yet offered on Ask.com. Here's an example, from my "lou reed" search:
I also searched for my home city, Wellington, to see what it displayed. There was some extra information in the right pane - time, weather and geographic facts.
Ask X, the new interface for Ask.com, delivers a lot of useful, topical information across 3 panes in the first page of search results. So with the help of some Ajax magic, Ask X presents a very slick and appropriate solution to information overload. It also complements their focus on topic clusters and "smart answers" - see our profile of Ask.com last month for more info on how Ask.com is differentiated from Google.
I'm looking forward to seeing Ask X go live on the main Ask.com site! Although it looks like I have a head start, because now when I go to ask.com it defaults to Ask X. There is an 'Exit Ask X' link, but actually I think I'll stay right where I am...