Ask.com has apparently walked away from its innovative “3D” interface in favor of a more “traditional” appearance. Some elements of the earlier interface and SERP have been retained. The press materials say that the new site has simplified the interface, while adding content depth and breadth:
Through a combination of recent enhancements to its proprietary search technology, Ask.com has made significant advancements in its core relevance versus this time last year. These improvements have already demonstrated a 16% increase in customer retention . . .
By going deeper into the highest-volume categories such as Entertainment, Health & Nutrition, Jobs, and Reference, Ask.com is now able to deliver more direct answers front and center on the results page, helping consumers avoid the back and forth clicking between Web pages. Ask.com will continue to go deeper into numerous categories this year.
Building on Ask3D’s innovation, Ask.com has simplified its user interface and now ranks and integrates content from a broader and more comprehensive set of content types – such as breaking news, blogs, images, videos, and music – right into the center panel.
Ask has been promoting itself online with display ads that target women, which is the core user base according to earlier IAC statements. I wasn’t able to speak to the company before launch but I would guess this interface tested well with women.
The earlier “3D” moves were quickly mirrored at other search engines (“universal search”). But while they received attention and gained some traffic and loyalty, they didn’t ultimately impact Ask’s market share in any significant way. Hence the repositioning of the site to emphasize the female appeal and the redesign.