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Microsoft The Internet

MSN Search - From A UI Perspective 297

Posted by timothy
from the competition-tunes-the-world dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The user interface community has also started poking and prodding away at the latest iteration of MSN search and has discovered some interesting findings including: XHTML strict, CSS for layout and the death of IE 5 support. You can also read first-hand MSN designer insight into the design process as well."
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MSN Search - From A UI Perspective

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  • by drivinghighway61 (812488) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:54PM (#11553995)
    So it won't render correctly in IE, then?
  • by Man in Spandex (775950) <prsn@kev.gmail@com> on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:55PM (#11554015)
    and the layout is fine on either browser.
    • I searched for Firefox to test it, and it spit out as the first (sponsored) hit: "Download Secure IE Web Browser and Save." Yep, it's a Microsoft site, all right. Nice that they make it [almost] XHTML compliant- I only got 2 errors on the page- but, still... it doesn't make it a good search tool...

      It is sad that Google gets many more errors.
  • If it's all standards compliant, why do I keep having problems with the style sheets? (In both Firefox and Safari, the page displays completely without styles.)
    • Re:CSS problems? (Score:3, Informative)

      by nine-times (778537)
      For clarification, MSN search displays without styles, and at the bottom of the page, it says:
      Why does Search look like this?

      You are seeing this message because our stylesheet is not compatible with your browser.
      MSN.com displays fine.
    • I see styles in both browsers so not sure what you are missing.

      However, in Safari the results page is completely without margins which is annoying.
  • IE 5 Support (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FiReaNGeL (312636) <fireang3l&hotmail,com> on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:56PM (#11554022) Homepage
    Great to see that even Microsoft 'admits' that IE 5 is non-standard on many things by dropping support for it on MSN search... trust me, building a layout compatible with IE 5, IE 6 and mozilla is a true nightmare. If at least they could patch the bad implementation of the box model...

    If every webmaster would stop implementing fixes and hacks to support non-standard browsers, I think IE would lose quite a marketshare to Firefox... end users don't see the problem (IE render every page fine! Firefox don't in some situations!) because webmasters optimize for IE (it IS 95% of the market, you know). Vicious circle...
    • Re:IE 5 Support (Score:5, Insightful)

      by qurve (689356) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:58PM (#11554066)
      It's not really that hard if you know what you're doing. as for not implementing fixes and hacks, well unfortunately I live in the real world, not an ideal utopia where I can tell my clients users to go to hell.
    • Re:IE 5 Support (Score:3, Insightful)

      by filtur (724994)
      It is indeed a Vicious circle, its not like you can explain to a client that your page is the one that's complient and IE is wrong.
      • That all depends... (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Sebadude (680162)
        its not like you can explain to a client that your page is the one that's complient and IE is wrong

        Does the page break in IE 5? I can't check from this computer. If it does, it'll be much easier now, since we can show them that even Microsoft's own MSN.com no longer supports outdated browsers. If Microsoft does it, the people will follow.
        • ... because I have a G3 Power PC with OS 9 and that seems to be the only useable (and free) browser I can find. The MSN home page is definately messed up on my browser when I visited it, with words overlapping and boxes pushed off the the far, far right. It's annoying, but I run into this frequently with pages using CSS.

          PS. If anyone knows of a good browser substitute for Mac IE5.1 on OS 9, I'd be thrilled to hear about it.
    • One good thing to come out of the nightmare of malware is that more people will be upgrading their browsers to the latest versions. Supporting ugly old browser versions won't be as necessary.
    • Some people have suggested that going standards-compliant on this indicates a plan for a standards-compliant IE.
      That would suggest that they are actually worried that people will stop supporting it.
  • XHTML Strict my Arse (Score:3, Informative)

    by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann.slashdot@nOsPaM.gmail.com> on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:57PM (#11554034) Homepage Journal
    From the validator webpage:

    Line 6, column 998: there is no attribute "VCARD_NAME" ...ze="20" value="" name="q" VCARD_NAME="SearchText" />


    It may be WELL-FORMED XHTML, but it introduces a proprietary attribute (so... Microsoft).

    Respect for web standards... yeah right. IMO they just did an optimization of their design... and certainly they did NOT have in mind any consideration for web standards. They nerver had.
    • At least read the blog entry before posting.

      Then you would see that they know it was not XHTML compliant yet, but was a work in progress getting there.

      Jumping on the bandwagon and saying "XHTML Strict my Arse" would warrant the reply RTFA

      • Then you would see that they know it was not XHTML compliant yet, but was a work in progress getting there.

        But surely the doctype ought to be for the current document, not for some hoped-for version in the indefinite future. Just because Microsoft is hoping to maybe, some day, have it compliant, doesn't mean they should be declaring it to be XHTML Strict today.

        Otherwise, every document that might some day get converted to XHTML Strict could have that doctype applied to it now, and then it would be mea

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Why use an Extensible HyperText Markup Language if you can't extend it?
      • Possibly you were trying to be funny, but a moderator seems to think you were trying to make an important point. So I'll respond as if that's the case.

        The Extensibility of XHTML refers to a modular design that allows the standards folks to add new features to the language without breaking existing web pages. It has nothing to do with ad-hoc extensions by implementers. A principle design goal of XHTML is create a consistent user experience, regardless of browser. This is supposed to correct one of the big

    • They could use XHTML 1.1 and create a new DTD on top of it. That was the whole point of 1.1 - to modulize things.
  • by delta_avi_delta (813412) <dave@murphy.gmail@com> on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:58PM (#11554056)
    With any luck this also implies that the next release of Frontpage won't create pages in a magical mystical microsoft invented language similar, but importantly different from HTML or XHTML...
  • Whoa! (Score:3, Funny)

    by A nonymous Coward (7548) * on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:02PM (#11554118)
    XHTML strict

    If they can be strict with this standard, that can only mean they have pre-emptively co-opted it! They have embraced and extended it before anyone else had a chance to simply follow it. They must have bribed the committees. This has to have been an inside job.

    This cannot be allowed to stand. We must stand up and fight for our rights to unpoluted standards. It is time to find a new standard.
  • by sameerdesai (654894) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:04PM (#11554140)
    From TFA: Some of you may be interested to know that folks from the MSN team have definitely seen this page, and are aware of the feedback, compliments, and criticism
    Yep, they did a search in their own search engine for "Miscrosoft Criticism" and found this website.
  • by avandesande (143899) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:06PM (#11554161) Journal
    Who cares about the UI? How good are the searches?
  • Slow news days? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bigtallmofo (695287) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:09PM (#11554204)
    How the design principles used on a web page that is basically a textbox and a submit button is news is beyond me.
    • Re:Slow news days? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by aiken_d (127097)
      Yeah, and what's even crazier is international news coverage of some sick old guy in Italy.

      It's almost like some people think that events can exist within a larger context, and that even smallish events could possibly have deeper meanings and impacts.

      Pretty ridiculous, isn't it?

      -b
    • If you aren't even going to read the article (it's primarily about MSN.com, not just the search page), then WTF are you complaining about? The article didn't even waste any of your time, and some people find it interesting. If you have nothing to contribute, go find another article to read.
  • by wombatmobile (623057) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:09PM (#11554209)

    Look through the imported style sheet on the home page, and you'll see several uses of @media handheld {} to target certain rules for handheld devices.

    Hey, that's good practise. The intent is for the one page to render appropriately for multiple device types. The web needs more implementations of this to make mobile browsing viable.

  • Faster load times... (Score:5, Informative)

    by GillBates0 (664202) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:10PM (#11554216) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft links to an explanation of benefits of the new MSN where they list the top (first) feature as being "Faster load time". Not sure what the old HTML file size was, but it would be interesting to have as a comparison.

    According to the Wayback machine [waybackmachine.org], file size doesn't seemed to have changed (or reduced) that much. This old version from July 2004 [archive.org] is actually smaller (33.95kb) than the current one [msn.com] which is 40.55kb. Note that this is from Firefox's "View Page Info" which does not take the total size of the images, etc into account (I think).

    But then there are several factors other than raw filesize leading to slower load times.

    It's nice to see webpage developers at Microsoft aware of standards, and trying to adhere to them. From this comment:

    At 6:29pm on 1 Feb 2005, Venkat Narayanan wrote:
    Guys,
    I work on the MSN.com Homepage team. Thanks for all of this feedback.
    We know that there are still some validation errors. There are still some accessibility issues. We will be working to fix those issues as soon as possible. Please let us know what you think.

    I think it only needs standards awareness from a few of the low-level developers to bring about a change. Even if the high level management/QA may not know or care about standards, a developer could make the work standards friendly without foregoing any of the performance/features. It would help, though to have management promote standards awareness, and devote resources to make sure they're complied with. Good for Microsoft if they're doing this. On the other hand, it may only be these few standards aware developers trying to do the right job.

    • I think it only needs standards awareness from a few of the low-level developers to bring about a change.

      I've heard it said that Microsoft hires "hackers" and not necessarily good engineers. From visiting, I'd tend to agree with this. There is very much an emphasis on late night coding binges and not so much on spending the time to make sure designs are sound, standards are adhered to, etc.
      • I disagree. Microsoft attracts and retains many of the best recent CS grads as well as experienced hires. The notion that there are not mature software development processes in place at a $288 billion software company whose core competency is execution is a little silly.
    • by wkitchen (581276)
      Perhaps you should compare it with their search.msn.com [msn.com] page, instead of www.msn.com. I think that's the newer simpler search page they've been talking about. That html file is only 3K.

      However, it references a 1K gif file, a 16K .txt file containing some javascript, a 24K common.css file, and a 10K msn.ico file. Of course, if you're going to include all these referenced files in a comparison, you'd have to include the referenced files for whatever you're comparing it to as well. The size of that msn.ico
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Yes, it works. But will they also send cops out to break down my door and arrest me?

  • by Bobbysmith007 (717813) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:16PM (#11554292)
    We were curoius how broken it would be in IE 5. In IE5.5 everything was mostly ok. In IE 5 it hard crashes IE. I dont know if I've ever seen anything quite so beautiful as that browser going down in flames on its own homepage.
  • by Animaether (411575) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:19PM (#11554328) Journal
    Okay... so supposedly nobody fears MSN Search.
    Everybody says Google still kicks full-on ass.
    Etc. etc. etc.

    So why is it that in the past 2 days alone there have been -3- articles on MSN Search on Slashdot ?

    MSN Search has arrived [slashdot.org] - actually, it was there a long time ago. It was simply finally put into place on the msn.com portal. I'm sure that was big news to all the Slashdot users who have msn.com as their homepage *smirk*

    Inspecting MSN Search [slashdot.org] - comparing image search, specifically. Using 'Britney Spears'. Gar, what inspection. Do something really interesting and post a website with text and images on a rather specific thing at various locations. Don't announce this. Now check which engine adds which website and its images, and when. Then compare them, and publish THOSE results. That just might be interesting.

    MSN Search - From A UI Perspective [slashdot.org] - So from a UI perspective they've found it uses XHTML (to some extent) ? Wow. Next time I'll evaluate a user interface, I'll be sure to note that it uses COMCTL32 and COMDLG32 instructions. ffs. This says nothing about the actual UI. Which, by the way, is quite sleek - imho. Bit more form over function than Google's, but still pretty light-weight. (Again, this is search.msn.com , not the msn.com portal.) I suspect the title here is chosen wrongly - it's more of a "internet standards compliance and device support inspection".

    Could Slashdot editors *please* just hold off the MSN Search articles until something actually interesting about it comes up ?

    Sceptic mode: Or perhaps do they post this simply to allow some more Microsoft- / MSN Search-bashing posts in the comments ?
  • by flacco (324089) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:26PM (#11554409)
    search for "developers developers developers" on google and you get a solid first page full of ballmer-dancing-monkey-boy links. on msn search, not a single one.

    hmmm.

  • by Ars-Fartsica (166957) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:27PM (#11554428)
    The search is fast, the results are good, and the layout is clean(er). Maybe they are beginning to get it. Competition works.

  • the death of IE 5 support

    I can't get to TFA at the moment to see if this is mentioned, but I did look at the stylesheet for the main page [msn.com] and found that they're using Tantek Celik's IE5 box model hack. [tantek.com]

    Does that count as "eating your own dog food"?


  • Prediction 1:

    Microsoft Desktop Search and MSN Search are seamlessly combined and are available on the taskbar at all times.

    Prediction 2:
    The Google lawsuit against bundling and for inclusion of Google Desktop Search / Web Search with Longhorn is already in the works. (Same will apply for GMail vs. Longhorn bundled Desktop-Hotmail access).

    The media-player lawsuit was nothing compared to this one...

    • Prediction 3

      The lawsuit will be filed after Longhorn actually comes out in 2007 and will be tied up in court until 2016. Google will at that point be declared illegal after MS gives the current corrupt leader of the U.S. billions in campaign contributions. Europe and Asia will be running Linux at that point and since MS is not allowed to sell windows there until it pays off its 5 jillion dollars in fines, the courts will not bother trying it there.

  • They let us take back the browser market in exchange they will attempt to control the internet itself.

    If you can't control the program that accesses the information, control the access to the information.

    -Don.
  • Google (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:42PM (#11554604)
    Um.... why is everyone whining that Microsoft has 8 xhtml errors? Go try and validate Google's page.
  • Somebody else must have been thinking as I did in time: Try the Coral Cache [nyud.net] of the Stopdesign site. (I usually try that, but I'm already too late; you can't cache a site that can't respond to the cacher, either.)

    (Karma whoring accusers: Look at the UID. Statistically speaking, it is likely I've been capped since before you had an account.)
  • by thefogger (455551) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:47PM (#11554655)
    Google [google.com] vs. MSN Search [msn.com]

    Round One!

    Fight!

    Google Validation [w3.org]: 44 Errors
    MSN Search Validation [w3.org]: 1 Error

    Google Wins! Eh...
  • Works in IE5/Win (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ToLu the Happy Furby (63586) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @04:21PM (#11554968)
    Obviously MS is not ready to drop support for IE5/Win, which is still an unfortunately major browser--certainly well above Firefox in marketshare if you lump 5.0 and 5.5 together. Rather they have dropped support for IE5/Mac, which is still somewhat surprising considering it is the "current" version of their Mac browser (unless you count an upgrade for MSN customers only).

    Incidentally, the site renders fine in Safari except for a somewhat ridiculous looking problem where the search button runs smack into Safari's OS X native widgets.
  • The single most important aspect of any search engine, for me, is that my own site (Lockjaw's Lair [lockjawslair.com]) show up in it. It should be at or near the top of a specific search, since the title of the site consists of an odd pairing of words, or at least show up.

    So, I did a search [msn.com] for my site [lockjawslair.com] on MSN Search [msn.com] to see how I fared. It doesn't bode well for a search site that I can find links to my site on other sites, but the search engine hasn't followed the links to my site. One would think that their spider would

  • if you have asked MSIE to ignore font sizes on pages. CSS what killed readablity.
  • by noda132 (531521) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @05:42PM (#11555877) Homepage

    They obviously won't be using valid (and correctly-served) XHTML 1.1, since IE refuses to even render application/xhtml+xml documents as XHTML.

    And judging by previous comments, they're not even bothering with XHTML 1.0, either. And writing invalid XHTML 1.0 is much worse than writing invalid HTML, since XHTML is XML and should thus die horribly if there's a single error.

    Out of curiosity, why does Microsoft find it so hard to write valid XHTML when everyone else finds it so easy? And in general... why the FUCK don't full-time web developers write valid XHTML? AARGH!

  • Standards (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ottffssent (18387) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @05:47PM (#11555944)
    From the article: "I have seen some feedback that we should not have declared the doctype as XHTML Strict. If anything, we are closer to HTML 4.01. I agree. But our target is to get to XHTML strict."

    And what is a doctype? That's correct: the type of the document. So if the document is really more like HTML 4.01, it should be labeled HTML 4.01. It should not be labeled with some marketing 'we'd really like this to work' drivel. Sort of a micrososm of the Microsoft Approach, actually. Lying to people fits under marketing - we're used to it and can take it into account. Lying to computers, computers which are trying to make your not-really-HTML into something presentable, is just stupid.

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