Google Image Search Improvements

By ranfanranfan (1253834189|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

Bing, Microsoft's relatively new search engine released a very nifty feature on their image search today, but Google Image search has also had a few updates over the summer that you might not be aware of.

What’s New

I am an avid user of Google products and from experience, I know they are always working on improving features. In July, Google made some substantial improvements to their image search system. In light of our classmate writing about Bing's new feature released on today (Thur. 9/24), I wanted to update you on Google's main improvements:

The ability to search by:

  • color
  • image type
  • image size or dimensions

You want the perfect PowerPoint slide; the font is lovely, the bullets are perfect, your background is attractive yet professional… all you need to complement it is the perfect picture. But in your image search, you find that this one is too big, that one is landscape when you want it to be portrait, and some just completely clash with your background picture. So even after browsing through a page of pictures clicking through each to see what it's REALLY like, none of them work.

Now users can narrow down their searches in Google image search from options other than using key words.

Testing It Out

Color Filtering: Search the Rainbow

I tried out this feature with the search item [ipod nano], and of course it returned a bunch of colorful images. In related searches, it also showed some color related search terms like green ipod nano.

But if I use the color option, I can easily narrow it down to all green nanos.

I had expected more images of the 4th generation green Nano, since that is the brand that was advertised as “chromatic” but surprisingly, I only got one image of the newer Nanos. Granted, you could just have typed in green Nano in the beginning, but selecting colors saves you some time.

Type of images and Image Size

I also like how you can chose the “news,” “photo,” “clip art,” etc. feature. That means I can get more professional quality photos when I need it and in essence, by choosing photos from news, I also have some control over the source of my images.

For instance, [ipod nano] with green and news filter yields this.

The size/dimension is useful if I want to find a background picture to use or a file size that is small enough to not bulk up my presentation. This also means I no longer have to click through the image to see what it really looks like.

Comparison with Bing, Yahoo! & Ask.com

All three search engines only has "color" option between Black and White OR Color. Google has 12 colors to chose from. Similarly, the size options for the other search engines are limited to small, medium, large or wallpaper etc. while Google uses specific dimensions (e.g. Larger than 400 x 300) or specific file sizes (e.g. Larger than 70 MB. Yes. That option is available. Not a typo, I mean SEVENTY MB)

Features I do like in Bing include its "layout" function in which you can chose between "square," "wide," or "tall". Within the style selection, you can chose between illustrations or photos and for People searches specifically, you can chose between "faces," "head & shoulder," or "other."

Thoughts

With a growing amount of information out there, I think it is appropriate that these filters exist to help people narrow down their searches. Although there is the “advanced search” option which contained some of these features before, its new "search option panel" makes the interface easier to navigate.

In a Forbes article, it stated,

A study by StatCounter shows Microsoft (MSFT - news - people )'s share of search rising from 7.2% in April to 8.2% in June. Google ( GOOG -news - people ) is far ahead at 78%, though Citigroup ( C - news- people ) analyst Mark Mahaney projects that Bing could win 20% of the market by next year.

I do not think this will markedly improve Google’s usage dramatically, since it already has a large market share of the search engine business and this feature is only a minor improvement in search functions, but it is a nice feature. It is unfortunate that unless you read Google blogs, most users probably have no idea these changes are occurring, unless they happen to stumble upon them. On the other hand, because of Bing and Yahoo's amount of coverage in the news, they are gaining awareness from internet users.

More on the Search Option Panel

According to the Official Google Blog,

This is a tool that let you "slice and dice" your results and generate different views to find what you need faster and easier. Search Options helps solve a problem that can be vexing: what query should I ask?

It lets you narrow down results by time, or look for answers specifically within "forums," "reviews," etc. This is a very nifty feature because these queries might be hard to structure.

It also has the ability to let you view your results in a new way. For instance, I chose to view my search of [oil prices] in a Timeline format. It gives me a nice histogram of news occurring on that topic within 10-year time blocks, which I can then break down by year, month, and day.

I think this is actually a very fun tool that makes web surfing more interactive and fun as it leads me to search queries I had not originally thought of.

You can view the youtube video for a grand tour:

Another New Feature: More information with Search Snippet

Snippet now extract and show more useful information from web pages than the preview text we saw before.

For example, if you are thinking of trying out a new restaurant and are searching for reviews, rich snippets could include things like the average review score, the number of reviews, and the restaurant's price range

Also, the "preview text" Google usually shows give you an idea of what the page is about, but now there are two new features that make it easier to find information buried deep within a page.

  • Provide links with snippets of relevant sections of the page
  • There are links within the previews that lets you jump directly to that portion of the website

I played around with this feature for a bit and it does not seem to be prevalent yet within all search results but it is definitely another time-saving feature. Google's blog runs through an example in their blog post today.

Conclusion

Within just a few months, Google Search has come up with several new features with the intent of simplifying its users' lives. Its interface has also improved to make it easier to navigate through the features. I wish the "show option" feature could be on by default. Because everyone is busy, I do not think anyone will realize that a new feature is available unless it is obvious. I look forward to more innovative features from all the search engines - with the increasing amount of information out there, this will only make search results more precise.

If you want to play around with Google's new features, remember to click "Show Options" below the search bar!

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