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The New MSN Search Interface : A positive change or the antithesis of transformation?

Now, instead of wide blue bars there are sleek silver-grey bars. 
 
Also, the top bar where the search box is became narrower.  To me this makes the page seem less  closed in  and more visually appealing.  I now feel as if I can trust the results more because they have more room. 
 
I've also noticed that MSN has been playing with the display of the titles.  Before this change, they seemed to bold the entire title, as well as bolding terms which matched the search query in the snippet. 
 
Now, they still bold terms matching the query in the snippet but they also only bold the search term matches in the title. Additionally, the font used for both the title and snippet are smaller.  
 
These help to create a more visually appealing search result making it easier to spot the best match to what you are looking for. 
 
You see as humans, we like to take the easy way out.  Most of us are  scan and click  search engine users.  We scan the results hoping something will  jump out  at us.  This is how Google became so popular   because they realized early on that we like visual cues to help guide us on the web. 
 
MSN tried this for a while, I found examples of it dating back to 2004, but most recently   even as recent as a few days ago there was no bolding on matched terms. 
 
When you look at the sponsored results you will see even more differences. 
 
While looking at searches performed in Firefox, I thought I'd perform those same searches in Internet Explorer. Here's where things got interesting. 
 
While the organic results were the same, some things caught my eye.  First, the sponsored ads appear much smaller in Firefox than IE.  The font size used to display the top and side sponsored ads is smaller than the organic results.  In IE they are the same. 
 
Also, in Firefox I was seeing Yahoo! sponsored results, however in IE I was seeing Microsoft Sponsored results. 
 
That s right, I was seeing different sponsored results providers depending on the browser I was using. 
 
Even the layout of the sponsored ads was different.  With Firefox and the Yahoo! ads, the top sponsored stretched across the page and the side sponsored started at the same line as the organic result, creating a fairly large blank spot in the upper right hand corner of the page. 
 
However on the IE browser with MSN ads, that blank space disappeared and the side sponsored ads moved up to be in line with the top sponsored results.  It made the page look much more organized. 
 
I looked into the CSS and JavaScripts being executed on the page to see if perhaps they were doing some kind of browser detection before rendering the page but I didn't see anything other than some style modifications for IE on Mac.  
 
Of course, this is still early in the game for the new MSN look.  I expect they will continue to tweak and refine it until it's just right.  As a result, if you do try the same tests I did (with a side by side browser test) you may not see the same results. 
 
In the end I do have to say, results aside, the new look is more visually appealing and at least for me makes it easier to accept the results.  I don't feel overwhelmed because of the previously small space available.

Rob Sullivan is a SEO Consultant and Writer for Textlinkbrokers.com

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