Google Begins Multi-Month User Experience Update

Today, Google has launched the first of many design changes that will impact all of their products, including search. Their blog post says the updates will roll over over the next few months, but that they have a philosophy of “constant revision and improvement”, and notes three primary principles driving the change:


They say they’re “bringing forward the stuff that matters to you and getting all the other clutter out of your way”, which in part means “hiding navigation buttons until they’re actually needed”. I get what they are saying, but this type of user interface behavior tends to drive me crazy as I hunt for things that used to be there and that I can’t find anymore. We’ve seen this type of behavior with the Google search UI since the last update that introduced the sidebar navigation. The links for the types of results and search tools change based on the search. I’m forever clicking “More” and “More search tools”, but I imagine most people think that whatever links are listed there are the only options available.

See below where a search for [google plus] doesn’t show the option to see only blogs and a search for [seattle thai restaurants] shows no search tools at all.

Google UI


Google says the “new design will soon allow you to seamlessly transition from one device to another and have a consistent visual experience” to better take into account cell phones, tablets, and TVs (all of which Google now partially power in some way).


Google says the plan is to “combine power with simplicity” to “make sure you have all the power of the web behind you. They say they’ll use the latest technologies (like HTML5) and the “latest, fastest browsers.” Does this mean they’ll continue to drop support for older browsers?

What’s Changed So Far

The post mentions their constant rollouts and indeed that’s the case even today as not everyone is seeing exactly the same thing. I’m seeing a new black bar in Chrome and Firefox (which we reported just yesterday), but not in Internet Explorer, as you  can see below:

Google Menu

In all browsers and variations of being logged in or out, I still see the colorful sidebar, but some are seeing a muted gray and red sidebar (which we reported last week, although in this case, the “I’m feeling lucky” button remains, but the buttons are muted), as you can see below.

Google muted

Google Gray

Despite Google’s post that they make changes all of the time, the search UI in particular has been fairly consistent other than major redesigns.  Are the “constant” changes in part a result of new leadership over the search look and feel now that VP Marissa Mayer no longer manages that aspect of Google?

So what do people think so far? Not everyone loves it.

Google UI Reaction

But some people do!

Google UI - Twitter

And apparently there’s lots more with this came from don’t get too used to this version.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Google: Web Search


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. She built Google Webmaster Central and went on to found software and consulting company Nine By Blue and create Blueprint Search Analytics< which she later sold. Her book, Marketing in the Age of Google, (updated edition, May 2012) provides a foundation for incorporating search strategy into organizations of all levels. Follow her on Twitter at @vanessafox.

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  • Sha Menz

    Personally, I’m already starting to get really irritated with this.

    3 major reasons I hate it:

    1. The black bar givesw an oppressive feel to Google and given the amount of time i spend on this page in a day, I really don’t need that.

    2. Google search page plays such a big part in my work that I consider it to be one of my work “tools”. Messing with it means I have to spend time looking for things as you mentioned. I really don’t need to have to re-familiarize or re-learn how my tools work all the time. This REALLY irritates me and if it’s going to be an ongoing thing, then the warm feeling I have for Google is going to evaporate pretty quickly.

    3. Every change to the Google interface brings me a bunch of phone calls from clients who expect me to be the “expert” and explain to them where the things went that they used to know. Not only do I not need the calls, but with constant changes going on, I’m now going to have to spend extra time trying to keep up with this stuff – different versions all over the place etc…

    Surely the core of the personalization that Google considers so powerful is giving me a say in what I like? So please Google, give me a choice to turn it all off and get on with my life!

  • Dennis J. Smith

    I love it and I’ve always believed that change is good. If you don’t adapt to change you get left in the dust like MySpace. BTW I love Thai Food in Seattle. Tup Tim Thai! :-)

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