AOL today released its new beta of mobile search. Congratulations to rockstar developer Alan Tai and product manager Farhan Memon. Alan did much of the initial prototyping on his own time while we worked to get approval.
I pushed the strategy on this, so it would be inappropriate for me to review it. See Om’s blog for more details.
I’ve long believed that you need to design for the medium. Shovelware didn’t work when we were first trying to put content on the Web; it won’t work now. The old version of AOL’s mobile search took the same 10 Web results you would get on a Web browser and shrunk them down to fit a mobile screen. That didn’t work.
People are in a different state when they’re mobile. Most people aren’t going to do research for a term paper or browse real estate listings on their cell phones. (Not least because most of the sites won’t work well when shrunk down to fit a mobile device.) The new mobile search is designed around answering the questions that people are most likely asking when they’re out and about: What’s the weather like? What’s the phone number for the local pizza place? What time is the movie starting?
Then there are the issues of limited screen space and difficulty in entering data. Time to answer is especially critical in mobile. This product was designed to get people answers to common mobile queries as quickly as possible.