Google has just made some very “unlike Google” changes to SearchMash, their experimental search engine. Much like Google’s search, SearchMash has always offered a rather simple experience that was easy to use. Recently they launched a new flash version that has all kinds of features like tabs to switch between search options (images, videos, etc.) and a “snap preview”. While it sounds cool, it uses Flash. And Flash isn’t always known for providing a speedy interface. I decided to go take a look at it with an open mind to see what kind of experience it offered. The first thing I encountered was a message saying “We’re sorry, but this version of SearchMash requires Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox.” I was using Opera, so just note before you visit that you must be using one of the aforementioned browsers.
After entering my first search query, “Windows Vista,” a results page quickly appeared. Yes, I said quickly. Here I was worried about it being a little slow because of Flash, but it was surprisingly quick. I wasn’t disappointed with speed, but I was disappointed when I realized that it only shows 10 results per page with no option to change it. I’m one of those that likes to display 100 results per page, so this change is simply inconvenient and requires more clicking to skim through results. The tabs up at the top of the page are great because you can quickly switch between web, image, video, maps, Wikipedia, and Blog results.
I’ve never been a fan of those Snap previews – you know, the pop-out previews that many blogs use that are meant to give readers the chance to “preview” the sites that a blog is linking to without leaving the site? I must admit though, the one Snap preview that is included on the SearchMash results page (top right) isn’t bad at all. In fact, it’s one of the better ways I think Snap could be implemented into a site. It doesn’t pop-out (which was the annoying part) it’s just there.
Other features include:
- Easy access to search history (slides out from the left of the page with one click)
- Embedded videos from YouTube and Google Video
- Variety of search results
The embedded videos is actually nice as well. Once you click on the “Video” tab, you’ll get a list of YouTube and Google videos pertaining to your query. After you click on one of the videos, it will appear in the right sidebar where you can play it. You don’t even have to leave the results page.
Overall, I’d say the the Flash version of SearchMash isn’t nearly as bad nor as slow as I had imagined it to be. It’s not perfect (you’ll probably come across a few usability issues/ inconveniences like I did), but it’s not bad either. Of course it’s experimental, so Google can do whatever they want without worrying too much about the reaction from their users. If you want to try it out, go to www.searchmash.com/flash in either Internet Explorer or Firefox.