This week in search 10/9/09

This is part of a regular series of posts on search experience updates that runs on Fridays. Look for the label "This week in search" and subscribe to the series. - Ed.

This week we made many small improvements to the functionality and usability of our search results. Here's an overview:

Quick, in-browser viewing of Google Docs
We've incorporated the "Gview" tool from Google Docs on search results. Instead of the old "View as HTML" view, PDFs on search results now have a "Quick View" link that shows you Gview's image-rendered version, which preserves tables and graphics from the document. This means you can view PDF documents quickly and easily right in your browser.
Example search: [1099] (note the "Quick view" links on the first two results)

An improved interface for local information in web search
We changed our interface for local business information when it occurs in search results. It's now much more readable (larger fonts) and friendlier to use (easier to click on just what you want).
Example search: [pizza palo alto]

Here are before and after shots for the search [bakeries san francisco]:

Click on either image for a larger version

Access to multiple providers in weather results
We also changed the interface for our weather results when they occur in web search. Now you'll see an array of different weather providers to choose from, including The Weather Channel, Weatherunderground and AccuWeather, if you want more detailed weather information. This way, you get the weather information you need, in the layout you prefer, from the service you choose.
Example search: [washington dc weather]

And here are before and after shots for the search [weather] (when done from the Googleplex, since the location is auto-detected):

Click on either image for a larger version

Public service information for searches related to poison control
While it's relatively infrequent, people do occasionally turn to Google during medical emergencies. Our goal in these cases is to get our users the help they need as quickly as possible. As of this week, searches related to [poison control] trigger a special result with the phone number for the poison control hotline.
Example searches: [poison control], [first aid bleach poisoning]

Search options panel for mobile
This week on mobile search, we added a Search Options panel so now you can get all of the same slice-and-dice functionality you have from your desktop when you search the web on your phone. Try doing a search from your phone and you will see an "Options" link on the righthand side above the results. Click on it and you see the same panel that you are accustomed to on search from your desktop.

Crawling AJAX
We also made an exciting announcement this week about making AJAX crawlable. Web applications are becoming increasingly popular, but much of what is contained with a web application is usually inaccessible to our crawlers and thus can't be found in our search. Our team has been busy working on techniques for how to crawl AJAX. This announcement just represents the start, as it's currently in the prototype phase, but it does demonstrate that we are constantly working on how to improve search — our features, ranking, and, in this case, our comprehensiveness. We're always very excited to include new content in our search to make our results even better.

Hope you enjoyed this week's features. Stay tuned for what's next!