10 Reasons to Hate Google's New Search Design

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2010-05-08

10 Reasons to Hate Google's New Search Design

Google has launched a new search design. The main difference between the new design and the old version involves the placement of helpful links in the left sidebar. In that area, users will find the option to search in categories such as images and videos. The company also added a few cosmetic changes throughout.

But whether Web users will actually like Google's new search design is hard to say. Yes, it's a revamped design and many folks get excited about such updates, but the change is drastic. And in some ways, users might not feel quite at home with the new design of the service. That said, the same search results are there, which should help Google's chances of maintaining market share. But there will be some growing pains that could cause some to think twice about Google's service.

Let's take a look at why Web users may hate Google's new search design when they first load it up.

1. It's too different

Google search users might not like that the service's new design is so different from the previous version. That difference is so drastic that users might not be comfortable searching the first time they start using it. That's a problem. Typically, when companies revamp designs, they do so in stages, so they don't shock users. Google hasn't. It has put search options in the left sidebar, changed the look and feel of the page, and left only the prominent search box and its results the same (although showing results in a narrower area). Many users will have trouble coming to grips with it when they first surf to the new Google results page.

2. Bing, anyone?

Before we go any further, surf over to Bing.com, evaluate the page and then check out the new Google search. Notice any similarities? I thought so. The new Google search looks amazingly similar to Bing, complete with the navigation links to the left of the search results, the search box atop the page and ads to the right. It's entirely possible that the similarities are coincidental, since Google has been testing the design for months, but that seems rather unlikely. In either case, having such a similar design is a problem. If users really wanted to use a Bing-like search engine, they would have already switched to Microsoft's service. Users like Google for what it is-simple and useful. They don't want it to be like other search engines.

3. The left sidebar is out of place

As mentioned above, the major difference between Google's previous search design and its new version is the placement of its left sidebar. Over time, users might find that to be a helpful companion as they search. But at first glance, it seems rather out of place. Prior to the new design, those options were tucked away on results pages, available only to those who wanted them. Now, they're in the face of the user, practically inviting them to get lost in results. Adding that left sidebar is unlike Google.

4. Don't fix what isn't broken

Customers might be wondering why Google is attempting to fix a service that wasn't broken in the first place. Yes, Google search might have felt like a slightly outdated search engine when compared with Bing, but it worked. And based on its market-share numbers, it was appealing to people. Users don't take kindly to companies overhauling products that, in their minds, work just fine. For the first time, Google has taken a major risk. And unfortunately it did so with its core product.

Google Takes Big Step Toward Search Clutter

5. Google isn't Yahoo

Whenever I've used Yahoo search, I've turned away almost immediately because of how cluttered Yahoo.com is. Google was never like that. I could surf to the company's homepage, input a query into the search box that was sitting on an almost blank page and scroll through results without being distracted by anything else. Those days are over. When users realize that that simplicity is gone and their attention is being drawn to other tools in the left sidebar, they might not like it. Clutter is not Google's strong suit.

6. The click-heavy search

Google has made its search tool potentially more click-heavy than it was in the past. For example, users can search for Bruce Springsteen in Google and find the same results they found before in the "Everything" tab. But if they start looking for images, blogs or videos, they might find themselves clicking several parameters to get what they want. Once again, that will iron itself out over time as users get used to it, and most of those options were available before the new design, but they're being brought to the fore now. And average or novice Web users might feel overwhelmed by all the options they're now given right out of the box.

7. It stinks of fear

Although the novice user won't care, advanced Web users who understand the battle that Google is currently waging against Microsoft might not like the new design. Although Google would never admit it, the revamped design seems like it was born out of fear, rather than necessity. Google is a capable company that can come up with the best and brightest ideas in any market. But it's as if the company opted against that and instead decided to cut Bing off at the pass by mimicking its design in some areas. It was a defensive move by Google out of fear that Microsoft's search engine could become a threat. And defensive moves aren't something we see from Google too often.

8. The backlash always happens

Whenever a company releases a revamped design of a popular product, it can expect some backlash. Users get comfortable with the look and feel of a product, and when it changes, they speak out against it for fear of not being as productive as they once were. Remember Facebook's troubles? The social network revamped its design and within minutes, a group was created to protest it. Over time, the outcry died down, but it was vicious while it lasted. Google will likely be forced to deal with similar backlash over this design.

9. Search is about the results

Google has shown that search is all about providing the best results users can find. Luckily, the company didn't mess with its results when it revamped its design. But it made it clear that its focus is no longer solely on the quality of its results. Now, the company plans to make its search service as visually appealing as some of the competition's offerings. To some extent, I understand the logic. Google wants to be at the top of every facet of search and design is one of those facets. At the same time, it has been successful without having the most beautiful search engine. The last thing the company would want to do now is lose sight of search results. But some might feel that it has.

10. Google could be falling into the sticky trap

Google's success can be partially attributed to its realization that it doesn't need to be "sticky" to be successful. The company wants users to go to Google.com and get to their destinations as quickly as possible, spending little time on its servers. But by making its many other search options so prominent, Google might be falling into the "sticky" trap that so many other Web companies have. Rather than get users out of the site, the new design seems to invite users to stay on Google's servers and click around until they find what they're looking for. That might make Google's ad team happy, but users might not like it.

Simplicity reigns supreme in the search market. And Google's new design has in many ways turned its back on simplicity in search of competitive advantages. That's unfortunate.

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