A redesign of Google’s user interface would normally be big news, but this week a fairly major change has been swamped by the hype regarding Google’s move into social media.
This week, Google announced changes to the Google.com homepage, Google Search and Google Maps, but they have been largely overlooked with the arrival of Google+, a software suite aimed at raising Google’s credibility in social media – by providing a more private, controlled social experience than Facebook currently provides.
Ironically, Google+ has a huge impact on Google’s Web services, but so far it will be limited to the users who have been invited to participate in the field test.
Shifting the furniture around
The new Google homepage sports a smaller logo, with links for the Web, images, maps and other search options moved to the top, and links for advertising, business partners and company information pushed to the bottom edges of the browser.
Google hopes this redesign provides a cleaner look. What the vast majority of Google Web services users can’t see – and people on the Google+ trial can see – is that Google+ has ostensibly taken over the top toolbar in the browser.
Those who are currently involved in the trial see their Google+ profile name as the first link in the top left toolbar when they are signed into their Google accounts. Search Engine Land has screen shots.
Moreover, to the far right of this toolbar is the user’s Google+ profile picture, a drop-down navigation bar to access their profile, Google+ contacts and account settings, a notification button and a share button.
Much like Facebook’s vaunted status update capability, the share button lets users post Web links, photos, videos and their location.
Making Google+ convenient
This move, which is clean and simple enough to anyone fluent in social software, is clearly aimed at making the Google+ social tool convenient to access for participating users, though this isn’t yet addressed in the redesign blog posts.
Clean yet elegant design is also core to Google Search, which also sports some changes this week. For example, the results page will soon feature a gray bar and a blue search button to highlight the search box.
The left-hand panel of search tools, which Google made a major upgrade to in 2010, now has muted colors, with bolder colors used to highlight action buttons, tools and filters.
The URL has also been relocated directly beneath the headline for each search result, bumping the search snippets lower.
Google Maps is also getting some new design tweaks, though these may be less discernible to anyone other than Maps power users. Check out the streamlining in this search for “oysters Portland SEO” before and after the changes.