Ask.com: trying to use simplicity as its winning strategy
Yesterday, Ask.com made a major relaunch of its search engine. The primary theme among its changes seems to be that its aiming for a more simpler, sleeker look overall so that there’s not as many things fighting for your attention.
Let’s face it. Here we have a company which rode atop a gimmick that was birthed during the dot-com bubble heyday; I’m talking about Ask Jeeves. Other search engines that also had a mascot include sites such as Mamma (one of the few that I can recall), and most of those have died off enough so that they hold a negligible share of web search. Ask is still around because they’ve managed to reinvent themselves as a search engine with a pretty good domain name, and I would say that that’s what’s kept them in the game thus far. If they were named something more web 2.0-ish, like Mahalo, then they wouldn’t have lasted as long as they did.
I applaud their attempt to again reinvent themselves in order to stay in the game, in the competitive search engine territory. Google’s got 50% of the search engine market share, and that’s still a long ways away from search engine dominance worldwide, so Ask isn’t done yet. They’ve definitely made a statement with their recent advertising blitz, but I agree with others in saying that it’s a fairly pointless campaign, and as a matter of fact, it’s more of an inside joke, because only geeks would think of algorithms when talking about search engines.
In spite of what I think they’ve done well, I still think that they pulled this latest reiteration of their search engine pretty poorly. I was baffled when I searched for something and saw that search results were fading in using Ajax. Ajax, for a major search engine? Are you kidding me? Using the Fade effect, no less; Google uses Ajax extensively in its non-search results products in things such as Google Reader and Gmail, but they have successfully implemented it in such a way that it’s not in-your-face obvious.
Ask really needs to continue tweaking their search results. The framed look makes it feel too constrained for me, or maybe Google has simply been pampering me all this time. There are so many things vying for my attention on the Ask search results page that I won’t be returning any time soon.