John Batelle has started running a series of interviews with key players in Search. This week he interviews Jim Lanzone
, GM of ask.com. A few weeks ago he interviewed Gary Flake
, former Overture/Yahoo researcher, now at Microsoft Research.
One of the interesting things that Gary Flake speaks to is the quality of the user experience of Microsoft's search product:
"But to be honest, we pretty much blew it with the GUI for the past year. Why? There's no good reason, really. The truth is we've had so much going on over the past year that it was simply more fun to focus on the core issues first, which is a mistake typical of engineers."
It's interesting to note that while Gary Flake highlights their decision to deal with fundamental algorithmic problems first - and GUI and UX issues second, a typical engineering mistake he admits - Jim Lazone seems to highlight the UX before algorithms per se. He highlights the ask.com innovations aiming at helping people disambiguate their searches (such as zoom - and binoculars is another innovative tool for ask.com users), noting that relevancy is top-of-mind now and that we will see improvements on that side in 2006.
Ask.com's approach seems to be the most successful of the two so far......but obviously this is a marathon, not a sprint.