Bing‘s social sidebar, which displays relevant results from friends and experts on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare, is one of the defining features of Microsoft’s search engine. Today, Microsoft is giving the social sidebar a bit of a facelift by removing the dark gray background and making the overall design more streamlined and less cluttered.
While Microsoft doesn’t emphasize this in its announcement, the new layout also seems to put a stronger emphasis on images by offering larger thumbnails for Facebook photos, for example.
What the Bing team does note, though, is that users don’t have to hover over a friend’s avatar anymore to see additional content. Instead, all of the info is now available right in the sidebar. There is also now a “+ see all” icon that gives you access to even more social results. Microsoft also says the new design means there is less blank space on the page.
One design element that seems to be gone in this redesign is the “Ask friends” box at the top of the search social sidebar. Bing replaced this with a Facebook “post” button that works about the same, but doesn’t include the call to action.
The social sidebar, of course, is a key feature of Bing. Over time, though, Microsoft kept adding new services to it and it often felt rather cluttered. The new design removes a lot of this clutter, and the fact that it’s now flush with the rest of the results also makes the sidebar feel more like an integral part of the search experience.
Just yesterday, it’s worth noting, Microsoft added some interesting new features to its Knowledge Graph-like snapshot feature, which occupies the middle column on the Bing search results pages. Unlike Google, though, which seems to be in the process of slowly de-emphasizing its social search efforts in favor of its Knowledge Graph results, Bing continues to mostly focus on its social search results.