Simplicity's design for better or for worse?
March 30, 2004 9:36 AM   Subscribe

Google redesigns.
Got rid of their colored tabs, added Froogle and lost DMOZ on the front page, and tweaked the search result pages with a new layout (sans colored boxes) for Google's AdWords. Still using font tags and with minimal use of internal CSS.

To top it all off, Google Labs adds personalized Web search and Web alerts. Wow.
posted by docjohn (35 comments total)

 
AAAACKK!!
posted by bitdamaged at 9:42 AM on March 30, 2004


I hope I'm not being a kneejerk luddite, but I thought the old design did many things badly, but I guess I got so used to them that I hate the new "design".

It's a lot less cluttered, but to the point where the ads and search results look much more similar to one another (probably what they were going for, seeing how they've kind of become an advertising juggernaut). I kind of liked the old tabs on the front page, the floating links look weird now.

I've tried personalized web search, but it doesn't really improve searches for me. I'd happily hand over all my intimate details (home address, interests, etc) if google offered truly personal search.
posted by mathowie at 10:15 AM on March 30, 2004


Looks like yahoo has had a slight redesign as well. Strangley it has colored tabs like Google's old design.
posted by bobo123 at 10:24 AM on March 30, 2004


I've been using Web Alerts for a good six months now to monitor one of my clients. It's just OK -- it tends to lag behind the News.Google page, and it doesn't seem to pick up on everything. Either that, or it's denigrating press releases from related companies that happen to mention my client. Color me unimpressed.

As for the new Google front page: eh. It's fine, although I sort of wish they kept the tabs. It really doesn't bother me much, and despite the harder-to-spot ads and sponsored links on the search return pages, I appreciate the slimmer top to those pages enough to make it all right.
posted by me3dia at 10:29 AM on March 30, 2004


Woops -- I should have said I use Google News Alerts to monitor my client -- but I have a feeling the Web Alerts will elicit similarly mediocre results.
posted by me3dia at 10:32 AM on March 30, 2004


I use Google News Alerts and it's always throwing up stuff I'd never have seen otherwise. One of the best internet things ever™.
posted by Blue Stone at 10:47 AM on March 30, 2004


I hope I'm not being a kneejerk luddite, but I thought the old design did many things badly, but I guess I got so used to them that I hate the new "design".

Not a luddite at all, sez me, a Google UI engineer. Testing showed that there were a small percentage of people who preferred the tabs. What's amazing, though, is the very, very large percentage who didn't seem to realize they were there. I'm always amazed at the stuff we learn in testing. And we have a pretty large and statistically significant pool to help us with longitudinal studies.

The ad thing...where they look more slightly more similar to search results? Notice also that the entire ad area isn't linked anymore. There is less accidental targeting when people would click on a page to give it a focus in areas that they expected to behave as whitespace, and particularly since the background colors used previously were working less as a way to distinguish them, thanks, in small part and by no means solely, to the proliferation of LCD monitors. (That surprised me in analysis, too.)

Also...not linking the entire ad box saved us quite a few bytes in terms of HTML which is helping us in our goal of making the results page faster...which means the internet runs a little faster, overall. :)

We saw, pretty clearly, that increased non-ad usage with the design (both in terms of search and finding our other properties) sustained over time...it's probably just a matter of getting used to the difference for some of us. (Including myself, dang muscle/spatial memory. :)
posted by massless at 10:52 AM on March 30, 2004


I dislike it. It's much less crisp to the eye. It's looking more and more like a standard portal. Plus, "Froogle" is the first item listed on the main features list that doesn't actually reflect its purpose ("Shop" would be a better link name). And Directory deserves to stay. Plus, now that the ads are no longer boxed off or separated by lines, they run together and give me the feel of newspaper classifieds, more than before. And the ads section on the left is less distinct now, and that combined with the fact that "Sponsored links" is in a faded gray color suggests to me that they're trying to reduce the distinction. I could go on. Suffice it to say, at this rate in 2 years it'll look like Yahoo!.
posted by abcde at 10:54 AM on March 30, 2004


Also, somehow it seems there's just like 5 pixels too much vertical space between the logo and the rest of the page.
posted by abcde at 10:56 AM on March 30, 2004


I agree about the "Froogle" thing -- it makes no intuitive sense (what's the F stand for, anyway? I know its a shopping thing but I can't for the life of me figure out where Google got the F from ....) and it looks funny with all those other plaintext words....
posted by anastasiav at 11:08 AM on March 30, 2004


froogle = frugal

Here's what it used to look like. The new design seems less focused than it used to be, but it's still a lot better than this or this.

I remember a bunch of notable web designers on the old dreamless.org forums belittling the google logo, with its brightly colored letters and dated-looking drop shadow. Good times.
posted by iconomy at 11:10 AM on March 30, 2004


Froogle, like frugal, like I am looking for a deal on something.
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:11 AM on March 30, 2004


Frugal... or being penny-wise. It's a comparison shopper... helping you to be frugal/froogle.

Being clever, apparently, isn't an asset.
posted by silusGROK at 11:26 AM on March 30, 2004


iconomy: That doesn't look like a recent copy of the design (I think it had News on the tab bar more recently).
posted by abcde at 11:27 AM on March 30, 2004


i would like the tabs back please. the whole page looks less focussed now or something... like it was thrown together in a hurry, without much thought.
posted by t r a c y at 11:29 AM on March 30, 2004


I'm not too keen on "more »". There's a ton of whitespace there, use a little bit of it.

And the "searching (X) number of pages" has always bugged me.

I suppose those are just minor nits, though.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:36 AM on March 30, 2004


You know a website is more than a website when it changes font size and gets 205 articles written about it.

That, and two appearances on Law & Order: Criminal Intent this week!

ps. massless: hook me up with a job? ;^)
posted by krunk at 11:41 AM on March 30, 2004


"Sponsored Links"? Why not call it "Links With Whom We Occaisionally Have Sex and To Whom We Occaisionally Give Money Because We're Such Good Friends"?

"Advertisements" would be much more honest.
posted by 4easypayments at 11:43 AM on March 30, 2004


travelocity also redesigned recently... new logo and everything
posted by howa2396 at 11:56 AM on March 30, 2004


I like it a lot. I was one of the people who routinely used the tabs, but even so I find the new design to be cleaner.
posted by gd779 at 12:01 PM on March 30, 2004


Oh, and I don't like how in Frugal the category system is now less accessable to the user (you have to search first).
posted by abcde at 12:12 PM on March 30, 2004


Wow, I somehow mistyped that in the correct spelling :P sorry, phonetic typist (surprising I can still get 120wpm).
posted by abcde at 12:14 PM on March 30, 2004


I'm definitely the guy in bitdamaged's cartoon - even a minute change in Google gives me palpitations. Couldn't there be an "old version" to go with the Klingon version?
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:30 PM on March 30, 2004


So what's with not including an external stylesheet instead of placing it within the HTML of every page? That's a few hundred bytes you could shave off with every request, since for most that would be cached. And what's with the font tags?!

I also don't understand the UI reasoning that since people were accidentally clicking on the colored AdWords boxes, that justifies getting rid of the color. It would've been a simple matter to get rid of the ability to click on the entire box first and see if that helped.

I find the new layout too similar to other search engines who mix paid results with actual results. Now there's only a thin line and a grayed-out "Sponsored Links" label to identify that these search results are ads. I can't believe usability testing said most people understood what this term meant.

Or that Froogle = Frugal = Shopping. Usability Rule #1 (or is it 2?): Label things with clear labels that mean something. Froogle may one day mean something, but it's meaningless to most of your users.
posted by docjohn at 12:35 PM on March 30, 2004


Why was the Directory/DMOZ button removed? I found that to be the most useful of the various tabs.
posted by picea at 12:45 PM on March 30, 2004


I have always used Google as a quick dictionary to check if something is spelled correctly.

I'd enter the suspect word into my google bar and hit go. The resulting page then listed the word that it searched for. If the word was underlined and hyperlinked, it meant it was recognized as a dictionary word. Now, however, the word is there, but over on the right side with the hyperlinked text [definition] link.

It seemed simpler when it was just the real word that was hyperlinked instead. Of course, now that i write this I suspect that my mom would never have suspected that you find the definition the old way. *sigh*
posted by stevis at 1:39 PM on March 30, 2004


Just to bitch, I also don't like the way google news now includes pictures with some stories and not others. The whole page of results now looks more scattershot. But again, I'm probably just resistent to any change.

(I used google to check spelling all the time too stevis)
posted by CunningLinguist at 1:43 PM on March 30, 2004


I have always used Google as a quick dictionary to check if something is spelled correctly.

So does everyone where I work, and when I correct misspellings they come and whine to me "But I checked it on Google!" Here's a hint for everyone: use the dictionary. That's what it's for. Google is for finding what idiots spew onto the internet.
[/editorial rant]
posted by languagehat at 1:52 PM on March 30, 2004


Personally, I think this very moment is the apex of Googleism. Now the geekier people will start diversifying more and trying out things like Teoma and FAST, IMO.
posted by abcde at 1:56 PM on March 30, 2004


When Google offers free email, wake me up.
posted by CrazyJub at 3:30 PM on March 30, 2004


And what's with the font tags?!

Well, you do want the people who use browsers that don't support CSS to see the right fonts, no?

Label things with clear labels that mean something. Froogle may one day mean something, but it's meaningless to most of your users.

Yeah, kind of like their main search product is called "Search" rather than some nonsesne word like "Google."
posted by kindall at 3:46 PM on March 30, 2004


I hate the new design. I miss the tabs, and I miss having an option for English-only results right on the page when I get too many foreign language hits.
posted by gyc at 3:46 PM on March 30, 2004


Google is still God. The changes are minor, moderately helpful, and do nothing to detract from Google's utility, usability, and simplicity. YMMV.

And I noticed the L&O:CI the other night, too - got a small rush from it, in fact.

And I noticeded yesterday that Google is on the cover of Newsweek at the grocery store ...I got all tingly, the way some guys seem to get when the swimsuit issue of Sport Illustrated hits the stands.
posted by davidmsc at 3:51 PM on March 30, 2004


For nostalgia's sake, here's the last time we bitched when Google moved a word.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 4:51 AM on March 31, 2004


The ad thing...where they look more slightly more similar to search results? Notice also that the entire ad area isn't linked anymore. There is less accidental targeting when people would click on a page to give it a focus in areas that they expected to behave as whitespace, and particularly since the background colors used previously were working less as a way to distinguish them, thanks, in small part and by no means solely, to the proliferation of LCD monitors.

Yes! Thank you, thank you. It looked like innocent whitespace (so I could click there to bring the window forward), but it was secretly live. An occasional unpleasant surprise.

And Google Groups fixed the cascading "group:alt.foo" problem, too. Before, if you performed a series of group-specific searches in the same group, the search window would start to look like "opabinia group:alt.foo group:alt.foo group:alt.foo"

My wishlist is now basically down to two things:

1) a checkbox to ignore linkfarm sites (e.g. "Searching for Cthulhu? We have the best sites for Cthulhu")

2) Perl-style regular expression searches. ("(Interstate|I-) \d\d\d" and stuff like that)
posted by kurumi at 9:12 AM on March 31, 2004


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