Ask Jeeves is conducting a limited test of a new search preview feature offering searchers a graphical peek at their results, no clicking necessary.
Search result pages reflecting the trial feature were discovered by Andy Beal, VP of search marketing for WebSourced and editor of search-focused blog Search Engine Lowdown.
An Ask Jeeves screen grab posted on Beal's blog reveals a page of search results in which a tiny set of binoculars appears next to each link. Rolling over the binoculars causes an image preview of the linked-to page to appear.
Further searches on Ask Jeeves did not turn up the graphical preview feature, but technology companies commonly test new features on a subset of Web site visitors.
Ask Jeeves representatives declined to comment on any wide rollout of a "look ahead" feature, saying it regularly conducts trials of new product ideas that may or may not be pursued.
"In the normal course of product development, Ask Jeeves tests products with a limited number of users from time to time," said an Ask Jeeves spokesperson. "Andy simply stumbled across one of these tests, but we have no product announcements in this regard at this time."
A graphic preview such as that being tested by Ask Jeeves offers users the benefit of no-click peek at the Web content that lies beyond a search engine's results page. Catching such a glimpse into landing pages could shorten the time it takes searchers to find relevant results, as they wouldn't have to load an entire page's content to assess its relevancy. The method would also decrease surfers' reliance on the back button when they encounter non-relevant content.
New York-based Viewpoint Corporation is offering similar "graphically enhanced search" technology in the form of a toolbar plug-in. It launched in March 2004, and uses search results from Yahoo Canada's Smartdevil has long been pushing graphical previews, which it calls Thumbshots, in Web search results.
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