Testing Bing, Part 2: The Features – Image Search

Bing and Google both have image search. The search results are about equal. They both work reasonably well, but both suffer from problems where the image you click on isn’t available. This seems to be more of a problem with Google, but perhaps only because Google is much more popular.

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But what a difference in how things are presented and how you can refine your results! Google has a few things you can tinker with – the image size, the type of content, and – oddly enough – the dominant color. I’m not sure why you’d use this, but I’m sure graphic designers ripping off other people’s images really like it.

Bing, on the other hand, offers all this and more. They have a beautifully organized layout that fits to your browser and offers ‘infinite’ scroll. They let you change the way results are presented – small, medium, or large previews, as well as a details view. They offer more – and more useful – controls for tinkering with your search results. There’s a ‘Wallpaper’ option available under Size which Google lacks, and this is a thing of beauty: only images the same size and orientation as your current monitor (or primary monitor, for us multi-display folks) are returned:


This works so well that I almost wish it was integrated right into Display Properties. Normal people don’t care about resolution or aspect ratios, they just want to look at pretty pictures and click the one they like. Bing lets you do this. Google doesn’t.

There’s one other area where Bing beats Google, and that’s the page you get when you click on an image in your search results:

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Google has a pretty basic ‘here’s your image and here’s the page it’s on’ approach. It’s kind of a crappy compromise between keeping you in Google and letting you see the image’s page. It sucks at both. Some sites have even figured out how to get rid of the Google frame along the top, so you entirely lose your Google search tools. Bing, on the other hand, keeps you entirely within the Bing UI – all the usual tools and layout are there. There are very easy to find links to view the full-size image or the source page in their own window. The source page itself is presented inside a frame, so you can see it without letting it take over your browser. Perhaps most importantly, though, your results are still available on the left. Want to check out the next image? Rather than dealing with whatever shenanigans the source page has dealt you, clicking back, finding where you where, and then clicking the next image in the list, all you have to do is browse and click. Very nice.

The Verdict: Bing wins hands down, again. Google should really be ashamed of this one; their image search UI is beyond basic and into shoddy, while Bing really does bring some useful new tools to the table.

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Copyright © 2010 Paul Guenette and Matthew Sleno.