Google’s New Look

There’s nothing more frustrating to a search engine nerd than to hear about a new search engine look but not be able to see it herself. Yesterday, I read the news from everywhere that Google’s was sporting a new ‘do. In vain I reloaded my browser window. I refreshed this morning with no joy. But now, back from work, I’ve finally got the new look. And it’s not really a “new” look — it’s more like already-existing things were pushed front-and-center. But I have a few comments to make anyway.

If you’ve been reading ResearchBuzz for a while then you know about Google’s side nav for finding more recent results, local results, some new features, etc. Google has made that permanent, instead of hidden-until-requested the way it was before. Further, Google has put icons — additional images besides the Google Logo! — at the top of the nav, pointing to searches of different properties. (The properties listed show up depending on what you’re searching for.) At the bottom of the nav are searches possibly similar to yours.

At the bottom of the more prominent nav is a list called “Something different”; searches or terms that might be related to what you’re searching for. Sometimes these are unintentionally hilarious; I did a search for fred and the Something Different list read as follows: carl, jerry, jim, richard, john.

There are a few more cosmetic changes; a little tweaking to the logo, the result count put under the search box instead of way over to the right, the bottom nav changed around a bit. Nothing earthshaking.

I did think that some of the language might confuse a novice search engine user. One of the possible search properties / data sets to search is called “Updates”. Now I guess that means Twitter but it’s not meaningful enough as a label. People who aren’t nerds are going to see that and go “Huh?”

And — oh, I don’t know, perhaps I’m getting old, but I’m little dismayed at how generic search results pages are getting. Bing and Google look rather alike. Yahoo is slick but similar — left nav, content, ads on the right. One of the reasons that Google was such a tremendous shock to AltaVista (eventually crushing it) was because the Google Look was so clean, used text ads instead of image ads, and didn’t try to crowd the page. It was simple. It was non-intimidating.

Now, do I think making the sidebar permanent instead of hidden was a good idea? Absolutely; in fact I think Google had to do it to make some of its non-search-engine properties more prominent, more in context to a user search. Sidebar presence does that whereas top-nav presence does not. On the other hand I hope this is not a slippery search to extraneous, low-value home page clutter ala the old Excite search engine. I don’t think it will be, but ugh, portal … the mere word makes me shudder.

Categories: News

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