Official: Google Won’t Offer Option To Restore “Classic Google” Look

As I covered in my article about Google’s new look, while the new design appears to have been widely accepted without complaint, there are some who want “old” or “Classic Google” back. Google tells me that’s not going to happen. But there is an unofficial way to force the old look to appear, for those who dislike the change.

Given that millions of people — heck, hundreds of millions of people — have used Google since the new look appeared last Wednesday, there’s been virtually no outcry about it. No “I hate Google’s new look” group on Facebook getting tons of attention. No widespread media reporting of complaints. No massive blogger outcry as we saw when the now-defunct SearchWiki launched at the end of November 2008.

Personally, I love the new design. Even if others don’t love it, the masses sure don’t seem to hate it. Or if they do hate it, they’re quiet about it, mostly.

The only real outcry I’ve found is a long thread a reader pointed me to in Google’s own help forums, where people are begging for a way to get back to the old design. I also found another long thread here. Some selected comments:

For the love of God, PLEASE give us the option of going back to the old version. Simplistic used to be what made google great. But the new cluttered look feels cramped. I’m only looking at the middle pane with the results anyway. If you want to refine the search or what have you, that’s what the advanced button is for.

Why is it so hard to simply give users an option to hide the sidebar.  We don’t need the clutter.  I never ever ever utilized the “Show Options” before, but now you are going to force it down my throat?

Wow…I love how Google has contradicted everything the site was founded on…I love that after all these years they give in, and conform to greedy corporations (it was inevitable). If this layout does not change, I will not be using Google. The only reason I used Google in the first place is because they gave the community and un-cluttered, simple to use, simple search engine, rather than give us options in a sidebar that we didn’t ask for. You Google, as a corporation, have now discredited yourselves by contradicting the whole purpose of the site in its entirety.

Just give me the possibility to turn it off … and I’m happy.

So how about it? Will Google provide an option to turn off the new look? I asked on Friday afternoon and got an answer back on Saturday from Google spokesperson Nate Tyler:

We’re not offering a way to revert back to the old design.

That’s about what I expected. When Google’s had design changes in the past that people have disliked, it has generally stuck by its guns, warning that if Google provides opt-out options, people never get used to new features that they later grow to love. As I covered when this issue came up during the SearchWiki complaints:

But why not just let people opt-out if they want to, as they can opt-out from other Google products — or how they can use the search preferences page to control number of results shown, popping-open search listings in their own windows, enabling subscribed links and other options.

“While users don’t have the option of turning off SearchWiki, they do have the option not to use the feature. By turning off the feature entirely, people will never get used to the new offering or see how it might be useful to them. We encourage people to try it out,” Dupont said.

I suppose. To some degree, we saw this after Google Universal Search rolled out last year. Some people kept asking for a way to turn it off. Today, I rarely hear that voiced.

Google personalized search is a better example. Some people — especially search marketers — wanted a way to toggle it on or off. Google didn’t care. At best, it advised a way to hack out the URL as a way to do it. Various third party tools are out there that allow this, as well.

Basically, in my experience, Google won’t let you override things it considers crucial to its own bottom line. Google has viewed things like Universal Search, SearchWiki and now its new look as so essential to a good user experience that doesn’t allow users to override them.

It could. Easily. Indeed, want to have 100 results at a time? That’s long been a permanent option you can enable using Search Settings. But want “Classic” Google? Adding a similar option would probably be easy to do. Google just doesn’t want to do it. And I still find that a shame, not to give some users the choice. At the very least, providing an option would allow a small number of Google users to take their time to grow used to the new look that supposedly they’ll love over time.

It might also be less embarrassing if Google decides it has made a mistake, as in the case of SearchWiki. Over and over, we were told the testing proved people love it. And yet in the end, Google killed the feature based on feedback that people didn’t like it.

Still, there’s some hope for those who like Classic Google. Bookmark this link:

This tip came from How to access the old Google Search. No hacks or scripts required over at The Next Web, and it works great. You’ll get all the search options shown in the new look, except these remain hidden within a left column that only appears when you want it (as things used to work, explained more here).

For related news, see Techmeme.

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Features: General | Google: User Interface | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Adrian

    I disagree. I think many people are upset about the “new” Google, and it has not been ” widely accepted without complaint”. I think the issue is most people who are not internet savy do not know how or where to complain.

    I really believe this is Google should consider giving users the option, now that they have shown people what the new Google is. Make it opt-out. If they want force users to use the New Google, then so be it. But would it be so hard to offer those logged into their Google Account an option?

    I hope Google is tracking the users heading to I am sure there will be a surge of people when they realize this will give them the “old” Google back.

  • Clifford Bryan

    Love the new look. I see the LATEST button has a pretty neat display of Twitter posts. Seems like a smarter design to me. I noticed a few people at Webmasterworld do not like it. Hopefully Google will turn the traffic back on soon.

  • barryhunter

    Speaking as a developer I would contest that the primary reason they don’t offer an option, is it reduces their flexibility in the future. If they offered an option to stick to the ‘classic’ look, they would have to maintain it. And any new feature, say to add another filter in the right column, would have to be implemented for classic too (or at least made so it doesnt break it)

    By removing access to the classic look, they dont have to worry if/when it breaks in the future.

    (sure it might still be available in the short term, as the *current* backend clearly has to be able to cope with both – so that the switch could be made seemless as possible. But it will soon disappear.

  • johnfrombrooklyn

    I believe the new Google left-column is going to cause a lot of problems for AdWords advertisers.

    The contents and “order of the contents” in this new left-hand column are presented by Google based upon the keyword search. As a retailer and also a search consultant, most of my ads are designed to sell a product or a service. I’m quite sure that many – if not most – AdWords advertisers also are trying to sell a product or a service.

    Historically, searchers would search and then continually refine their search. So “running shoes” begat “men’s running shoes” begat “New Balance running shoes” begat “New Balance 867 size 12 men’s running shoes”.

    The beauty of AdWords is that advertisers could tweak their ads and their bids based upon these different searches.

    But now if a searcher searches for the name of a product or service that is obviously “for sale”, then Google throws up this big Shopping button on the left. Now we know that even if Google put up an image of a cat, that image would harm CTRs of ads because it competes for eyeball space. There are a certain % of people who would click that image just out of curiosity.

    But Google didn’t put up a harmless image of a cat; instead it put up a big fat Shopping link button to compete with advertisers’ AdWords. This link says to searchers, “We know you’re looking to buy something so we recommend you click on this shopping link.”

    What happens when you click on this shopping link?

    First, you don’t see the 2-10 AdWords ads like before. Instead, you only see 2 (and rarely 3) ads at the top of the page.

    Second, 80% of the real estate on that Shopping page is devoted to Google’s Merchant Center (formerly Google Base).

    Google’s Merchant Center is muddled, messy, rarely accurate, and is managed like SEO. In other words, you can do everything right, like include “rich snippets”, and you may find yourself at the top. Or you may not. There is little rhyme or reason.

    And to make it worse, because Google’s Merchant Center focuses so much on ratings, it skews heavily toward the larger merchants like Amazon,, Zappos, and the rest. Smaller retailers can never compete on quantity of ratings.

    What confuses me completely is that Google makes little money off Merchant Center. It makes a bit off Google Checkout fees but nowhere near what it makes off AdWords for the same category. I don’t understand why they have swapped out highly profitable efficient AdWords and essentially replaced them with the Google Merchant Center which is not near as efficient, accurate, or profitable. This new system is less workable for both the advertiser and the searcher.

    As advertisers, this new system (particularly the left-column Shopping link) has many implications for us.

    1. These new left-hand columns are not part of Google search. They are considered part of Partner Search. So if you have Partner Search turned off, you need to turn it on to be included.

    2. Because the Shopping column only lists the top 2 (and rarely 3) ads at the top of the page BUT NONE IN THE RIGHT COLUMN, advertisers have to bid for the top 1-2 spots if they want to be seen on this page. No more can you skillfully make money at the #3 – #5 spot for the simple reason that your ads won’t be shown. (Technically they do appear at the bottom of the page but we know these are basically worthless.)

    3. Google lumps all Partner Search into one big network. So there’s no way to bid separately or tweak your ads depending upon whether the searcher is looking at the left-hand columns of Images, News, Blogs, Updates, Shopping, etc. etc. I can add a filter in Analytics to see which one of these pages converts best but I can’t really do anything about it on the advertising side.

    4. Because Google has added this Shopping link button to the first SERP, it will naturally draw clicks away from AdWords ads. And that is going to hurt our overall CTR. That hurts quality score and raises costs. This is extremely unfair in my opinion.

    I know that the new interface has only been up for a few days but I looked at my data over this time period. I have enough data points to draw a decent conclusion. Based on my businesses which are selling software, educational products, health club membership, and online classes I’ve found the following:

    1. Overall CTRs from the first search SERP have declined 30-45% depending upon the search. In instances where Google only throws up the yellow Shopping link as the only left-hand option, my CTRs are down about 45%. In other words, fully half of searchers who previously had clicked on one of my AdWords ads have instead clicked on this Shopping link.

    2. If I separate my AdWords performance from Google Search (the first SERP) and Partner Search (the secondary pages such as Shopping, Images, News) my conversion rates are down collectively but they are way down on Partner Search. So this new Shopping section is really taking a bite out of our conversions. Either searchers just aren’t buying anything now or they’re buying from the Google Merchant Center.

    I’d like to hear other advertisers’ experiences with this new interface but it’s got me scrambling for new solutions.

  • Faust91

    I strongly disagree. Firstly, there are numerous threads on the Google support forums. There are quite a few on the article, as well as a article about the clunkiness of the layout. A simply search last Friday revealed a plethora of complaints and tweets requesting them to add a \Hide\ option.

  • Faust91

    Moreover, Google’s lack of options for feedback reduce users to posting in the Google forums. I, for one, have switched to Alta Vista, and will continue to use it unless Google offers the option to hide the left sidebar.

    It’s also worth noting that MS admits that most users don’t use the left sidebar on Bing.

  • websitedesign

    Personally prefer the old page also… google used to be about simple uncluttered design and now it’s a pile of corporate brainwashing.

    I want non personalized, non localized, international search back!

    How are small companies going to compete in the new google? SEO is now local or nothing for lots of produts becase G pimps big corporations through: brands, shopping, news, photos, etc.

    Someone needs to come along and make a clean , unbiased search engine.

  • Faust91

    From the Google Corporate page:

    Above all, a well-designed Google product is useful in daily life. [...]It doesn’t strong-arm people to use features they don’t want.

    And actually, the new layout flies in the face of almost the entire list of “aspirations.”

  • Intuition

    No “I hate Google’s new look” pages on Facebook? Last I counted there were over 20 of them already. You have to give these things time to ferment. Not everyone is ready to voice their dislike of something the first day it’s rolled out. And not everyone is a geek using Google every minute of every day so many people don’t even know about it yet. This is going to take time to snowball.

  • jefmac2003

    Google have lost the plot.

    Not every user is a 14 year old.

    They may be the future but right now I would guess that most people over 30 have been using Google because it was uncluttered: just a search engine, nothing but a search engine, and quite frankly for most of us for most of the time it was the WHOLE search engine.

    No more.

    Google has vacated its core demographic;

    Someone will fill the space and the demographic will desert the Google clone of Yahoo at its worst.

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