Right now, using the search bar in Firefox feels like using two separate interfaces. The search bar has it’s controls and the search page you’re sent to has it’s own controls. The search page invariably has the most complete and better integrated controls. At the same time the browser’s search bar is more convenient for switching between search engines. What would really be great is for the two to work together to make one cohesive interface.
Search Panel Interface:
The idea is that the main controls of the search engine (the search box, page navigation, and link selection etc.) are left up to the search panel. While elements like the organic results and sponsored links are left to the search page to handle.
Note: I have more of these mockups on flickr. If want to look at them closer I recommend you view them using their slideshow feature:
Tab Through Search Results:
There’s a feature in RockMelt where it shows truncated results in a side panel while they are pre-fetched/rendered, which allows you to tab through them quickly. It’s basically the same idea here except you also have access to the regular results layout through the “expand” button.
Toggle Sidebar Options:
In addition to toggling between “Tab Mode” and “Wide mode”, you can toggle the Sidebar shown on the lefthand of the search results (right now, all the major search engines have one). It defaults to off since it’s not needed most of the time.
Switch between Search Engines using Keywords:
This is kind of like Chrome’s “Press [Tab] to Search…” feature only it’s not sensitive to where you type the keyword. You can type it before, after or in the middle of your search query and it’ll offer (via the autocomplete/suggestions dropdown) to search the query with that engine.