Now, whenever you type in a search term, three panes pop up: the main search results in the middle with a "smart answer" at the top, a list of helpful categories and related topics on the left to refine your search, and a new "morph" pane on the right with a selection of results customized to your search that may include images, video, Wikipedia entries, or music tracks. Type in "Toledo" and along with the regular results Ask returns a map, the local time and weather, as well as the city's population. Type in the musician "Ray Davies" and the results in the right-hand pane morph to include album art, event listings, and clickable songs from iLike. You can even choose froma variety of skins to customize Ask's homepage (I chose the polka dots above).
Taking a dig at Google, Leeds says:
There is all of this content out there. Why does the search results page still look the same?
While Google recently announced it is unifying its search results to include news, image, video, or blog results on the main search page, it is pretty much leaving it's interface the same. So when it comes to search, is simplicity better or choice (aka "guided navigation")?
Or more to the point, will Ask's new look help reverse its slight decline of late in the search rankings? Comments are open.
Update: John Battelle weighs in on Ask's new interface, as does SearchEngineLand and the NYT. Leeds told me that they tested the new design with a panel of consumers and it garnered a customer satisfaction score of 82 compared to 71 for the old Ask.com (Google scored an 81, Yahoo a 76, and AOL and MSN both scored 74—keep in mind that Ask was the one conducting the test, however).