Move over Google, there's a new search engine in town and it is pretty.
Bing essentially keeps Google's pared down, essentials only aesthetic. Bing has it's logo, a search box and button, and a few key category links. And a few, poignant links at the bottom to entice the bored web user (yes, they exist). Oh, and did I mention the beautiful photos?
Today's (7/14/2009) Bing:
Ooh what beautiful purples and blues. Ahh, Paris! Ahh, the Louvre! I honestly believe that the use of a single image on the homepage may help Bing take a bite out of Google's hold on the search engine market. Here's why:
1. It's Trendy
Seriously, I mean that. The web is going to see many more of these large format photographs as backgrounds in the future. Don't believe me? Check out Smashing Magazine (#4) or Web Designer's Wall's great collection of large-image background sites that are already ahead of the curve.
What I particularly like about Bing, is that in this web of digitally layered abstraction, to have a single, well executed photograph is very calming (is that the right word?). It's like a fresh breath amid the chaos.
2. Users Connect
The image, which changes everyday, helps the user connect to Bing in two ways. 1. It gives users a reason to visit the site, even if they're not trying to search. But just by going to the site, the image or one of it's related links will entice the user to click. A click will take the user to a search results page. So, even though I just came to look at a picture, I clicked on one link, and voila, I see Bing in action. Similarly, the changing image entices people to set Bing as the user's homepage, for the same reason as previously stated and hopefully with the same benefit.
The second way users connect to the image is by the content. The images on Bing (as far as I have seen) have always been a location. And it's an added bonus for the user, if they recognize the location in the photograph. If they visited there on a trip, the user is likely to share this photo with others, saying something like, I can't believe it, I've been there! (This happened in my office when a co-worker recognized a small seaside town in Italy that he had visited. As a result, all eight of us sitting around him headed over to Bing to check it out.) For example, the image above is of Paris, but a very specific location in Paris. And that's why it feels special if you recognize the place. They've managed to make Paris personal. Not only does the image cause a positive emotion, but makes the user likely to share this positivity. Again, increasing the number of visits to Bing which could easily increase the number of users.
3. Connecting the World
The locations displayed can be small remote locales or large, well known cities. It's as if Bing is scouring the world and bringing it into our homes. Is this not symbolic of what the internet does? Globalization is here. And Bing is bringing us the beautiful side (much needed among this depressing economy and environmental destruction.) The photographs give a location to this virtual space and it feels very welcoming. We're not blindly jumping into a virtual portal, we're setting out for an adventure beginning in Paris at the Louvre.
In writing, the most fundamental principle is that a piece of work must be both unique and universal. And Bing has found that very difficult common ground.
Bing is off to a great start with a strong visual viewpoint. But just because you build, and just because people come, does not mean that people will return. Ultimately, the real test for Bing will be its usability, its optimization, its search strategies, its advertising potential (in the future?) and its ability to bring something better than what is already out there.
I would let you know, but so far I only Bing for the photo.