Image Search

As my Microsoft Web Only diet continues, I found myself using Image Search today to put together a presentation.  I hate text heavy Powerpoint presentations so I try to go to the Seth Godin school of Powerpoint and limit myself to six words per slide (e.g. lots of pictures.)  Historically, Google Image Search has been my friend when I put a presentation together.

I loved Image Search – it’s substantially better than Google’s.  The actual image search is about the same, but the UI is dramatically better.  It’s very Ajaxy – resize bar, mouse over to enlarge image and get image detail, drag and drop image to other apps, infinite scroll (rather than next, next, next), and overall nice / fast presentation.  Someone on the Google Image Search team needs to take a look.

  • Brad,

    I don’t agree that the Microsoft UI is substantially better than the Google UI. The MS UI breaks a pretty fundamental rule of good graphical user interface design, and that is: “don’t make information invisible unless you really have to”. The MS UI hides a bunch of metadata that I think is quite useful in image searching e.g. knowing the dimensions of an image is often important in filtering results. There is plenty of screen real estate in the MS UI to display that metadata all the time, rather than only on mouseover. I’m not surprised at this – there are few developers that have any kind of sensible understanding the issues surrounding interface design. Good interface design is why Apple does so well – it matters.

    Also, the actual AJAX implementation is flaky e.g. the image metadata doesn’t always display properly “on mouseover” in Firefox. That is, sometimes no metadata appears when you mouse over an image.

    Overall, I think this is a weak piece of work from the Live team: poor design; *and* poor implementation. That’s not to say Google couldn’t improve their image search results interface. I’m just not impressed by what MS have done in this case. I’m sure the team on this project was minimal in size, but that excuses *only* the poor implementation, not the poor design.

  • Simon – interesting. Having used Google Image Search A LOT for putting together presentations, I found’s image search MUCH easier and more productive. Maybe it’s just the way I work – and your points are all good ones. Hopefully the guys will iterate and address some of these issues.

  • Seeing your post, I thought they would have done better job – but in my view not at all. Although i liked UI, but it is not stable. Once it shows popup you can not just move over to next image normally (on Firefox).

    First, I use image search for my research oriented work – no presentation, so they tend to be non-generic in nature. What by brief search revealted is that Live finds images that it “assumes” are relevant rather than actual ones.

    Use the search pattern “nematic liquid crystal”. Google gives exact searchs on its first page ( with total of 338 ), while in contrast Live gives horribly wrong results and only 44. So I am sure they have long way to go!.

    Hope they can show results with exact pattern match atleast and start acknowledging that people do use browser not made at Microsoft!


  • Brad,

    It’s interesting that you found the MS image search so much more productive than Google image search. For finding images to use in presentations, I’d have thought that the two key things for enabling high-productivity are: a) ability scan large numbers of images rapidly; b) ability to drag and drop original versions of images (not thumbnails) from browser to PowerPoint.

    I actually don’t see a significant difference between MS and Google in these areas – although mileage will vary here according to particular browser/hardware/OS platform combinations (I’m talking only about Firefox on Wintel with a large monitor and dragging and dropping into PowerPoint).

    Having said all that, both Google and MS UIs for image searching are a long way from what could be done. I wonder if this is because neither company sees a lot of value in doing image search well, or because they actually don’t *know* how to do it well?

  • Without jumping in on the MSFT vs. Google debate…

    if you are looking for good (high quality/free) images for your presentations, check out There’s some great stuff there.

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