REDMOND, Wash. – Sept. 23, 2011 – Bing is celebrating the first day of fall with a first for its users: an autumn-hued video on its home page.
Visitors to the U.S. Bing home page today will be greeted by a time lapse video of the sun slowly rising over fall foliage. The video – visible to people using an HTML5-enabled browser – is the first to appear on the Bing home page, where eye-grabbing images have become an iconic part of the search engine’s brand, said Stephanie Horstmanshof, managing editor of Bing. Friday’s video represents the next step in Bing’s efforts to bring people into an experience they can’t get anywhere else.
“The Bing home page gives people something to talk about and connect with, and it inspires curiosity in our users,” she said. “And that’s really one of our ultimate goals – to make them want to come to the home page every day to see what the image is going to be and to make them find out more about it. It’s always had beautiful images, and breathing a little life into those images through video seemed like a natural evolution for the home page.”
Beginning today, videos will be sprinkled in among the static photos that appear each day on the home page. Sometimes they’ll be event-driven, while others will appear simply because the Bing team falls in love them, Horstmanshof said. (At first the videos will only be seen by U.S. visitors, though the team will start rolling them out to various international markets over the next several months.)
Parents and schoolteachers report that children are often inspired to learn more after viewing the images and informational hotspots on the Bing home page.
The goal with both the images and videos is to invite people to explore more and peek inside Bing, said Laura Kern, director of design for Bing.
“From the beginning we wanted Bing to be a place for exploration,” she said. “Sometimes search can seem like a utility, but we thought it could be rich and fun and engaging. Now we get love letters from users who explored something unexpected we put up on the home page.”
Horstmanshof said those love letters often come from parents and schoolteachers who sit down with their children and are inspired by the home page image to learn more. Every couple of weeks, Horstmanshof and a team of photo editors, writers and producers gather to pick the images that will appear on the home page. They look for more than just a pretty picture but something that will make people want to find out more.
One of her favorite examples is a double-take inducing shot of campers suspended from trees in portaledges, a type of tent designed for rock climbing. “We knew it was going to be popular because it was so baffling,” she said. “You just thought, ‘Why are these people hanging from a tree?’”
The home page always helps people start searching for answers with the photograph’s “hotspots,” or the overlays that offer users factoids and links. Those engaging images have earned fans from the outset – the Bing team has received feedback on every image ever posted, she said. Some get more comments than others. “Baby animals – people go completely insane over baby animals,” she said.
Fans can now get to those images on the Bing home page on their laptop, on their phones and tablets, and even on the TV through Xbox LIVE, Kern noted. “It’s so important to have great experiences on all the devices people use today,” she said. “We’re trying to take advantage of all these visually rich environments to offer our users more.”
That’s in line with the vision Microsoft had for Bing since the beginning, said Qi Lu, president of Microsoft’s Online Services Division. “Right out of the gate, we had a different point of view about search,” Lu told investors recently at Microsoft’s annual Financial Analysts Meeting. “We want our product to go substantially beyond just finding information, go all the way to help the user make decisions and complete tasks. And we focused on delivering a much richer experience.”
Horstmanshof said the Bing home page will continue to work on delivering more to the people who use Bing. One thing that will remain the same, though, is the dynamic experience designed to draw them in.
“We think the constantly changing home page is a subtle hint that the Web is alive,” she said. “It’s not static – especially not a search engine. Search engine results change all the time, and we love the fact that our image changing sort of mirrors that. We’ll keep trying to surprise and delight people every day.”