Google's Subtle Redesign

May 18, 2007

What if someone moved all the light switches in your house?  Or changed around your car dashboard.  Or your TV remote?  Thereís probably about a five step process to fully adapt to the change: (1) confusion >> (2) disorientation >> (3) adjustment >> (4) acclimation >>  (5) comfort ñ though muscle memory steps in every so often to remind you of what was.  I am somewhere between steps 2 and 3 in Googleís redesign.

Yes, it is subtle. But for a heavy Google user, the redesign of the Google home page is taking some getting used to.  If you havenít noticed, links to the secondary Google pages have moved from just below the Google at the center of the page to a more conventional upper left location. Iím sure Iíll be well on my way to step 4 by dayís end, but Googleís thinking behind this redesign is probably a more interesting discussion than one about the new design itself.  So, why the change?

In the early Google days of 1999, site design was much cleaner and much less cluttered than just about anything else on the web.  Yet, it still had a way to go towards the even more streamlined approach that had come online by 2000.  Over the next several years this aesthetic moved through several slight evolutions to further simplify, and later to accommodate new offerings, like News and Images and Maps.  

Probably the biggest reason behind the move is simply one of real estate.  There is only so much of it below the ìGoogleî - and the teeming development fueled by Google Labs and the acquisition group demands some greater visibility from a site that can reach upwards of 30% of web users on a given day.  Today, the links that once resided under ìGoogleî are the same as those that now live in the upper left of the page.  But I expect this to change in the same evolutionary fashion that we have come to expect from Google redesigns.  We will likely begin to see more links to other Google offerings. Notice, too, the slight blue bar that now appears across the top, enabling this new set of links to appear on both the "Classic" home page and the customized versions developed with iGoogle.

Strangely, Google ñ whose stated mission is ìto organize the worldís information and make it universally accessible and usefulî ñ has often had trouble organizing and classifying the various sites within its own Google universe.  Sheer volume of traffic and some extremely compelling applications have helped to mitigate this paradox. Perhaps this redesign is an effort to address the challenge head on, turning Googleís much heralded organizational skills inward to help users make Googleís own tools and content more ìaccessible and useful.î   

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