[Update 05/06/10: I thought about it later, and I cannot figure out why Google calls it a “Wonder Wheel.” There really isn’t a wheel in the feature to be found. Oh well.]
Google has finally recognized the need for more functionality and streamlining to their homepage search—Google.com. Besides giving their logo a facelift, the updates do serve many practical purposes that all users should take advantage of. The new side column has a few features that stood out to me. Some of these may have been around before, but they were not as apparent and so I and no one I know came across them.
The Wonder Wheel
This is a clever way to discover and explore the relationships between searchable content. Bear with me; if you are a visual person, this new feature is for you.
Step 1: I search for “Toy Story 3” (either from Google’s homepage, your browser bar, or whatever way you would do so, you would most likely see the same results) in the example seen below. You can search for anything you like to see the feature work, but in this example, let’s say that I want to learn more about the movie before I go see it.
Step 2: About half-way down the new side column, choose “more search tools” if “Wonder Wheel” is not already visible. This will add a few options. In either case, choose “Wonder Wheel” for yourself and you will see the page update to the following.
Step 3: Now you get what is usually in the center column moved over to the right side to make a space for a visual mapping of Toy Story 3 with related subjects. In my case, I wanted to see Toy Story 3’s relationship to Pixar more so than it’s connection to Transformers 2—wait, what? How did that get there? What does Optimus Prime got to do with…. Whatever. I choose “pixar.”
Step 4: Now I see what’s also related to pixar—I still see the original circle of connections for Toy Story 3 at the same time.
Noticeable Pro: Play with this feature for 30 seconds or less and you will have the hang of it. My kudos are in order to Google. They made this feature especially appealing visually and intuitive—not to mention snappy. I will make use of it.
Noticeable Con: In the visual mapping of related items all capitals are gone. Titles to the movies, businesses, people’s names… It makes for a hint of confusion if I’m not already familiar to the subject matter.
There are other useful editions to the search functions. If you want to learn more, I recommend you tinker with the search options yourself. You can also read more about the subject at Google’s official blog [link to their post].