One of the problems with visual search sites is that most of them are only suited for a few specific kinds of queries. Try searching for a song on SearchMe, and you’re more likely to get a Wikipedia page than an MP3. Viewzi, a startup out of Texas, is looking to offer a more adaptive visual search that can radically change in both appearance and function depending on the search term. To check out the site, click here (for now this is the only way into the site, you’re free to adjust the search term and view mode once you’re in).
Viewzi draws its flexibility from its “views”, each of which is essentially a customized search aggregator. After entering a search term, Viewzi tries to figure out what you’re looking for, and presents the results in an appropriate view. At launch there are 16 views that include the “3D Photo Cloud”, “Album View”, and the curious “Weather View”. Each view draws results from different sources, ranging from Amazon to Weather.com.
Enter a search for “More Than A Feeling”, and you get the MP3 Search View, which lists links to the song, each of which can be previewed using an embedded Flash player. Try a search for “iPhone”, and you’ll get the Gadget View, which presents a mashup of iPhone queries on Amazon, Digg, Flickr, and Wikipedia. You’re also free to manually pick which view you’d like to use, though results can be less relevant.
For the time being, users will only be allowed to use views that have been created by the site’s developers. However, the site plans to roll out an API in the near future which will allow users to create their own views, and eventually hopes to make a WYSIWYG “View Maker” that will allow anyone to create their own views.
In practice Viewzi did a pretty good job at determining which View corresponded to a search term, though it wasn’t perfect. My biggest problem with the site at this point is that some of the views are pure eyecandy, offering little in the way of useful information. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – I enjoy eyecandy just as much as the next guy. But it feels like a few of the views are sacrificing function for good looks (Gadget View, for example, is almost useless).