For a long time, Google have been proponents of what’s been called “non-design” — a non-design which still involves testing 41 different shades of blue. Nonetheless, the result is three flagship products — Gmail, Calendar and Google — that are supremely accessible. These days, however, Google is experimenting with a visual refresh1. While messing with a winning formula in search of a possibly better formula is certainly courageous and admirable, I’m worried about the general direction, and especially who calls the shots.
The main changes to the homepage are:
- More saturated and flat logo
- A tweaked and styled textfield.
- Big, blue, styled pushbuttons.
Big deal eh? Well yeah, any change to Google.com is a big deal. The search results pages have been tweaked as well:
There’s now a permanently visible sidebar allowing you to drill down in your results, filtering out images and whatnot. One useful feature is that, depending on what you search for, the left hand sidebar will suggest you click “images”, “news”, “books” or whatever other filter holds useful results. The big question is whether this will be useful in day-to-day use, or whether it’s just clutter.
More worrysome is the general move towards styled push-buttons and UI widgets. This has long been an important focus matter for me, since 99% of all styled UI widgets are worse than their counterparts. “Why?”, you ask, for the googol’th time? Because we’re just talking webpages here, not operating systems, and any change in common UI norms serves to confuse the viewer and even stands the chance of simply looking like a graphic. “Oh, you can push that thing?”
Even so, this whole change smells of CEO-itis, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ll soon see Google sporting the Spiderman font.
Oh, and if you want to have this design early, you can go to Google.com, paste this snippet in the addressbar, and then refresh the page: