Microsoft's Live Search homepage adds background image with clickable spots

While it doesn't add much to the overall function of the search engine itself, Microsoft's latest update to the Windows Live Search homepage adds a background image with "hotspots" that can be clicked.

For example, the first background appearing on Live Search shows a picture of the Okavango Delta in Botswana, with four clickable areas are included on the map. One over the trees in the distance asks "What will you see on your safari in Botswana?" with links to search results on animals on the country. Another link, over the boater's head takes users to an overhead view of the region using Live Search Maps.

Microsoft had already prepped its search portal for the change through a redesign this spring that replaced the Google-like plainness of the front page with a more colorful design, although maintaining simplicity.

The company is making sure that the additional functionality is not going to slow down users who have no need for it. The base page would load first, allowing a search to be initiated quickly, while the imagery and hotspots are loaded later.

Some may question why such a feature should be a priority for a search engine that right now is far behind its competitors Yahoo and Google in terms of market share. The Live Search team's answer for that appears to be differentiation.

"We want the page to be a great place to start a search and also to intrigue and inform as well," the team wrote in its blog. "We think hotspots will help users discover parts of Live Search they might not know while not distracting from the core purpose of the page -- searching."

The new Live Search homepage is live now for most in the United States, and Microsoft says it plans to launch the concept in other markets in the near future.

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