One of my theories about where search can go is to add more structure to the presentation of results. There are other directions for it to simultaneously go of course (e.g., social). But Ask is testing something very interesting in an experimental new interface. Richard McManus, Barry Schwartz and Gary Price (an Ask employee) cover the new test interface, dubbed Ask X.
Its three column format presents a ton of information to help drill down on or disambiguate the query. For example, here’s a result for the query “divorce lawyer.” Note the right column asks for the location. Adding a location takes you into AskCity. Here’s the result for “best washing machine.” There’s lots of helpful information and tools to help me refine my search.
Here’s the result for “local searches.” Note the blog results on the right, the AskCity boxes on the top and the narrow/refine queries in the left column.
They’ve managed to squeeze a lot into this presentation of results without making it too cluttered. I’ll play with it more but my initial impression is that this is an impressive use of tools and UI real estate.