I received an email from Microsoft today noting that they had redesigned the Live Search home page, but navigating there, I didn’t see a difference. Ah. I’m in Ireland currently and the changes are US-only at the moment. Here’s the Live Search blog post about the redesign:

Today we're releasing an update to the Live Search home page that received positive feedback from customers in trials last month. The new design features background images that will change frequently, augmented with what we call "hotspots." These interactive areas highlight parts of the image and help you explore search results related to the highlighted area. Users who have tested this new home page have found it both engaging and a great place to start a search.

New images and hotspots

In our release last spring we laid the foundation for this page. In this home page release we've added background home page images that we'll change regularly and hotspots that click through to great search results. Hotspots gleam to the user when the page first loads then fade into the image. Users can discover them again by moving their mouse over them, revealing details about the image and a link to a related search result. To ensure that users can start a search immediately, our base page loads first with the images and hotspots loading quickly afterward. Users on a broadband connection may not notice the two steps. Today we're releasing the new home page in the U.S. only, with more markets to follow in the future.

A great place to start a search

Our goal for the home page is to find the best way to enhance users' sense of discovery, surprise, and delight while balancing engineering realities for a great user experience.

Extensive user research and exploration of many concepts with our customers pointed us in the direction for this design. We want the page to be a great place to start a search and also to intrigue and inform as well. We think hotspots will help users discover parts of Live Search they might not know while not distracting from the core purpose of the page — searching.

We think the new design is a great start, but there's more to come, with lots of interesting directions that we'll be exploring in our next releases of the home page.

Chris Rayner, Senior Product Manager, and Zach Gutt, Senior Program Manager
Live Search User Experience team

Zach? Zach Gutt! I know Zach, but I had no idea he’d moved over to the Live side. (He at one time worked on ISA Server and Mark Minasi and I did a few road show events with him a few years back.) Anyway...