Joel - good! Microsoft Live Search - bad!

Microsoft Live Search is now… uhm… live. Naturally, I’ve tried it out – and lost interest promptly after the first query.

Microsoft is clearly trying very hard to replicate Google success. The problem is, part of the Google appeal is clean and usable UI. Unfortunately, Microsoft Search folks still don’t get it. Branding and replication of [rather garish] desktop UI elements pretty much ruin the experience.

To substantiate and quantify my qualms, here is a list of things that made me think this round of improvements is still years behind Google in terms of both UI and usability:

I find it extremely ironic that this event concided with another excellent Joel’s article on software usability. The bottom line of the article: Something is usable if it behaves as expected. Microsoft Live Search is a living proof to that statement. It does not behave as expected, which makes it at least not as usable as other offerings. Which means, it will continue to lag in terms of user share.

I understand that Microsoft will eventually fix these bugs and will become at least as usable as Google. Still, this is pretty sad: the company that defines the UI on 98% of the desktops in the world is incapable of replicating the usability of a white webpage with a bunch of search results on it! This might explain why people have to curse through changed UI paradigms every time a new version of Windows or Office is released.

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