UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Using Searchcube

Posted by Brian Kelly on 15 Jul 2008

One of the unexpected benefits of having a blog was to find that, via the incoming links to my blog posts, I would be alerted to developments likely to be of interest to me – after all, if a blogger has linked to one of my blog posts, I’m likely to find what they are writing about of interest.

It was via a referrer link from the Dougmuse blog that I spotted a post entitled “Bored with your search engine? Try searchcube“. I’ve previously described the SearchMe Visual Service which provides a 3D gallery style display of search results, so I was likely to be interested in how search results can be displayed on a 3D cube. This service is provided by Searchcube which “is a graphical search engine that presents search results in a compact, visual format“. It “uses the Google AJAX Search API. It displays the first thirty-two (32) results for each of websites, videos and images“. It requires support for JavaScript and Flash version 9 or above.

I’ve experimented with the service for a search for ‘iwmw’. The interface is illustrated below (although to get a better idea of how this service works you need to try it – it’s fun, for example, to see how the images on the cube are assembled).

Searchcube results for a search of \'iwmw\'

But is this ‘presentational fluff’? After an initial exploration of the interface, is this likely to be the type of search interface that people who be likely to use?   And even if it does have a role to play, what are the limitations of this service?

As I suggest in my post on the SearchMe service, although I personally would be unlikely to use a 3D style interface for general search queries, I could see a role for this type of interface in other contexts. If, for example, I wished to get a feel for the first page of Google results for a particular search term, this might be useful (and remember that most users are likely to only look at the first page of search results). And perhaps this type of 3D interface may provide accessibility benefits to users who find it difficult to make use of textual interfaces to search.

But even as a possible interface for niche applications there are some limitations to this tool. The service requires use of Flash and even though Flash support is available for many browsers SearchCube does not provide a URI for the searches – and even the help page doesn’t have a URI associated with it. But are these insurmountable barriers?

2 Responses to “Using Searchcube”

  1. AMD said

    I can see an advantage in a thumb preview of a site without having to download each homepage in full, or share your own IP address with the host until you wish to (unlike Firefox’s pre-fetch of your top 3 search results).

    However some users may be tempted to hunt through irrelevant, but good looking sites for their information.

    I like that it renders other data formats, like PDF – which may be really useful if you know what your document looks like! If you could only search using the “SITE:” modifier, I can see that being a real bonus on some document-rich sites.

    From a more frivolous point of view, I can see some of the features from the Flickr API being used to allow us to search for ‘all *mainly purple* sites about [query]’.

  2. Fun to watch it compiling but it’s pretty slow compared to a boring page of Google results.

    Also, am horrified at how our homepage is depicted using this. I don’t know the tekkie term for this but our homepage doesn’t really have content – it’s just displaying a lot of links to content living elsewhere. So, our homepage looks mainly blank and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to explore further on the basis of what’s displayed here.

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