Most sites show small product images in site search to maximize how much they can fit on screen. This makes logical sense. Some examples–
Example 1: http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/CAMOmnifindQueryCmd?storeId=226&catalogId=40000000226&langId=-1&searchCategory=&ip_state=&ip_constrain=&ip_navtype=search&pageSize=24¤tPage=&ip_sortBy=&searchKeywords=camping+tent
Example 2: http://www.rei.com/search?query=camping+tent
4 column display is an industry standard. If everyone is following this convention it must be the best, right?
Backcountry.com has taken a different approach, sacrificing efficiency for user experience …
… and I think they’ve nailed it. What’s really clever is that backcountry.com gives visitors the choice to switch to the traditional compact view, thus allowing backcountry.com to study user preference.