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Ask Jeeves adopts minimalist motif

The Web search company launches a redesign of its flagship site, focusing on a simple look and highlighting the most popular queries.

Web search company Ask Jeeves this week launched a redesign of its flagship site intended to clarify its international brand amid increasing competition.

The redesigned Jeeves site is modeled on the U.K. Ask Jeeves site, which Jeeves acquired last quarter after two years of co-developing the site. The most prominent change in the redesigned flagship site is the addition of three tabs that searchers can click through for results in the categories "Web results," "shopping results" and "news results."

Taking a page from the design bibles of its slender and minimalist competitors such as Google and Yahoo, the search site named for the portly English butler has slimmed down with the aim of letting visitors click through results pages more quickly.

The redesign also brought the launch of JeevesIQ, a page that lists the prior week's most popular queries--minus the sexually themed keywords that tend to dominate Internet search statistics--from the Web, shopping and news categories.

Jeeves once contemplated breaking out sexually explicit queries into a separately branded site, but ultimately decided against it. Now Jeeves has removed all pornographic links from its flagship site's results; those pages can still be found through its recently acquired Teoma search engine.

The addition of a news category appears to be a response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Since then, news-related queries spiked 75 percent, Jeeves said.

JeevesIQ also draws inspiration from the company's search competitors. Nearly a year ago, Google launched Google Zeitgeist, a site breaking out query statistics to show what topics were hot, and which were not. In a similar vein, Lycos publishes its Lycos 50 list.

Jeeves faces new competition in the corporate arena, with the launch Monday of InQuira. The new company's natural-language software lets people type questions into corporate Web sites to retrieve relevant information. The start-up walked away with BEA Systems, which terminated its deal with Jeeves a year and a half ago. Other InQuira customers include Sun Microsystems, Fidelity Investments and Bank of America, according to the company's Web site.

Back in the consumer market, with an eye on newly crowned search heavyweight Google, Jeeves acquired and, late last year, integrated search technology from Teoma into its site. That integration boosted the amount of time the typical Jeeves visitor stayed on the site by 25 percent, the company said.