Google has begun testing a new design for its famously minimalist home page, reducing its recently-added grey menu along the top of the page to a grey logo at the upper left. When users click the logo, a fly-out menu reveals Google’s usual space of seven top services (Google+, Search, Images, Maps, YouTube, News, Gmail, and Documents) and a “More” option that flys out an hierarchical submenu with access to things like Reader, Calendar, Books, and Shopping. Each service is tagged with its own icon for easier visual identification.
The new design is not yet available to all Google users, but seems to be selectively available to some users in English-language markets.
The new design provides access to many of Google’s services that were previously missing from the home page, while putting the Google+ social networking service in a can’t-miss position on Google’s home page. That’s pretty prominent placement: last week, Nielsen declared Google was the most-visited Web site in the United States during 2011.
Overall, the new look bears a greater resemblance to Google’s Web-dependent Chrome operating system, which is currently available on a handful of Chromebooks from Acer and Samsung. Chromebooks have been out for more than a year, and so far Google has yet to announce any new partners for Chromebook devices—although CES is right around the corner. Google has rolled out similar makeovers for services like YouTube.
Some users of the new Google home page design have pointed out where many common Google services (News, Maps, Images, Shopping, Google+) were available via a single click on the grey menu across the top, the new design requires two clicks: one to drop the services menu, and another to select a service—with services on the “More” menu, it’s three clicks instead of two. Generally speaking, putting more clicks between a user and their destination is a quick way to stop users from accessing those service—although some analytics reports suggest that Google’s home page navigation actually sees relatively little use from everyday users, who instead merely search for what they want.
Google’s famously uncluttered home page design dates back to the late 1990s, when the company basically offered four things on its fast-loading page: a logo, a field, a search button, and the boastful “I’m feeling lucky.” Although the company has tucked more functionality and links into the page over the years—including its famous Google Doodles—Google’s primary home page remains one of the most streamlined and fast-loading sites for a major Internet company.