Everyone has a bad day.  It's possible for even the most successful companies or individuals to miss the mark.  Someday, Pixar will make a movie that is merely average instead of great.  Some time in the future we might see Lebron James brick a ton of shots in one night.  And it's even hypothetically possible that Google might tinker with their product a little too much.

Heck… might have happened already.

Exactly what are they smoking over at Google?  Screenshots are starting to pop up here and there of the new Google UI (User Interface).  Now, they've been testing this since at least November, when Danny Sullivan wrote about it.  But now there are rumors that it's out there in the wild for some users.  Here's a look at a screenshot of the new UI this morning (followed by a shot of the current live result of the same query for comparison):

New Google Search UI Feels More Like Bing Than Google New Google

New Google Search UI Feels More Like Bing Than Google Old Google

(You can go here for instructions on how to activate this new UI for yourself).

Now, I understand the drive to improve your product and user experience.  Heck, if Google wasn't trying to improve and just kept the status quo we'd be ripping them for inaction and they might even start to suffer market share loss.

But there's a thin line between "improving the UI" and "mucking it all up with flashy things.”

Maybe I'm going a bit overboard with the negativity-tinged sarcasm… I've been known to do that.

So let's break down the new UI a tiny bit and see what's different or new:

1. The search button is blue.

Why?  Were users confused by the former (grey) button?  Were users showing behavior indicating they needed the button to stand out more or be more patriotic?    A button color change just feels silly—like something a more immature, less established engine might do.  If people don't know how to find and click the buttons on Google, I humbly submit they aren't worthy of using the engine in the first place.

But hey, I'm sure they have research and data that suggests a blue button is better.  Someone probably got paid a lot of money to pump out a 40-page document on the effectiveness of button color changes.

The "Google Search" and "I'm Feelin' Lucky" buttons on the home page are also blue with white text.

2. The search options on the left are now permanently open.

This is the part that everyone's saying makes the new UI a bit of a Bing clone.  And guess what… it feels like Bing.

And why do we need all the search type options twice?  Look down the left sidebar, and you'll see some familiar faces:  videos, news, images, books, blogs, etc.  Yes, those same options you've always had up at the top of the screen—hey look… they're still up there too!  Twice the chance you'll find them.  (The new ones on the left have bright colors, though, and nifty little icons to help them stand out).

We now have a three column layout for Google results.  One for options, one for ads, and… oh yeah… that one in the center for actual results.  The whole thing feels cluttered.  Like Robert Yang implied over at e-storm, it feels like Bing and Yahoo mashed together with the old Google.

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3. The outline of the search box is now a blue line instead of a grey one.

I wonder if they got some focus group data that showed them that blue is the new grey?

4. There is no longer a space between the search field and the search button.

Phew.  I've been wondering for years when they were going to remove that nagging space.  It was really bothering me.  Glad they finally did that.  The three millimeters of real estate will come in handy.  (sarcasm, for those not picking up on it)

5. The Google logo is now larger.

Not sure I have any feeling about this either way, other than the general rule I have that you never make the logo bigger just for the heck of it.

There are a bunch of other tiny changes that probably aren't worth mentioning (the total number of results and the time it took the search to complete are now directly to the right of the search field instead of slightly below it on the right side… that kind of thing).  But all in all, I see them fixing a lot of little things that didn't appear to be broken, with the end result being something that feels… almost un-Google-like.  That's not necessarily a bad thing.  Change is good, in general.  But it seems to be their biggest step yet outside of the classic look and feel of the results.  As with all UI changes, time will tell if these were good or bad, and the users will be the ones to determine that.  I'll try and remember to check back in on this down the line for a follow-up story.

The sad fact, though, is that I'm completely biased.  I have spent and will continue to spend much more time on Google's results pages than the average user.  It's part of what I do for a living.  So maybe I'm not objective when it comes to the blue button or the three-panel layout.  Perhaps the general population finds these things more useful and helpful than I do. I'm certainly not an engineer.  I have no experience whatsoever in tweaking the UI of the world's largest website.  It's entirely possible that these changes will result in more users or happier users (or both).  I'm alright with that.

At the very least, you have to applaud Google's willingness to try new things (even if those new things are slightly borrowed from competitors).  A less-driven company would simply rest on the laurels of what's already proven to work.  But from my position, they've gone a tad bit overboard with this round of changes.  Anything that makes Google feel more like a Microsoft product is possibly a step too far.  But what do I know?

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  • Test

    And now they add the background picture

    For years I have been used Google as my homepage, until this morning. This horrible BING theme background is just unacceptable. It is making my page to load slowly and reading the text is becoming harder with all the colors, instead of the white page.

    I am terrible disappointed Google is now acting as Microsoft. One of the main advantages of Google is that it was simple and gives me what I was looking for. I am not looking for background images on my homepage, if that were the case I would be a Bing user and not a Google user.

    This is just a horrible copy of Bing.

    You have remembered me when some marketing burocrat tried to change the flavour of Coke!!!



    This is terrible. Thanks google. I'm off to find a new search engine.


  • Shanna

    So very annoying. I liked google because it was over all more simplified than other search engines that seem to be 'trying to hard'. I guess google decided to follow the trend.

  • search engine optimization

    When I first saw it I was like what happened to Google? I am not fond with it as it looks confusing as it take lots of space on the side.

  • Alex

    It seems like someone's told them 1280px wide displays are history

  • screen_space

    My guess is that Google is trying to create additional space on the search results page to display ads.

    The new layout is unfriendly to users who view multiple windows at the same time. With the new UI, a window has to be much wider for search results to take up enough of the screen that results are easily readable.

    Needless to say, whenever the new layout is forced upon me, I delete my cookies and restart my browser. So far, this has worked. But I suppose Google is bound to make the change official at some point.

    • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

      thanks for the tip on how to bypass the change temporarily. I did not think
      to restart the browser and delete the cookies ;-)

  • Google

    The new "search experience" is like a really bad movie. I saw it a few times and absolutely hate it! Its fine if you want to "improve" on something, but dont take away the right yes I said right "option" to turn it off, make changes, and LET THE USER decide what they want. Some people will like it, some wont, you gotta take into account, but people never do. Thaks google for screwing things up yet again!

  • Robin

    The new Google interface is live for me. I don't like it. I'm a big fan of Show Options and its features, but let me click on it, don't force it on me. I'm already confused enough in my own mind when I'm searching for something. The old interface helped me think through results. The new interface just adds to my confusion as when I start clicking, I get lost.

    I've tried Bing. The search results are really good and I like the pretty pictures. But they too force too many options on me. But hey...now that Google is doing the same, I think I'll honestly switch to Bing. The search results are as good if not better than Google's. And the pictures are nicer.

    Unless Google goes back to its old, simple interface, they have done to themselves what a gazillion dollar advertising campaign could not do--and that's get me to switch to Bing.

    Yes...what are they smoking at Google headquarters?

  • dustysage

    While change is always difficult, it is time for Google to grow up and offer more readily available options. One of my biggest issues with the old Google was drilling down to find what I wanted. A bare search page was fine when Google only offered search. But now that they support my email, shopping, word processing, landing page and more . . . I expect a bit more finesse and ease of navigation from them. While, I'm not sure how much I like the new layout yet, I do like where it is headed and I'm sure that I'll come to be increasingly comfortable with it over time.

  • Travis Campbell

    Jeremy- Thanks for putting this together. For many change is difficult, and no doubt when this goes live they will hear complaints from users. However, Microsoft knows a thing or two about creating a UI that brings users back, and is familiar. No doubt Google has learned a thing or two over recent months about UI enhancements. I

    suspect with their OS and line of Droid phones, they will try to unify the user experience.

    Let's see how well they can pull this off.

    Thanks again,

  • http://vidiseo.com vidiSEO

    Not only is the logo bigger, but they appear to have removed the outline from the logo to make the colors a bit more vibrant.

    I've been using the new design for about a month and I don't mind it. One think I'd like is for the left-hand pane to be customizable. Some social search features would be cool as well. I can already see the twitter and facebook logos fitting in nicely. :)