Monday 18 December 2017

Google is testing a major change to search results

A woman at Google’s offices on Barrow Street in Dublin.
A woman at Google’s offices on Barrow Street in Dublin.

Google is once again experimenting with different designs for its iconic search results.

The company has started returning users' searches with a grid-like list of boxes, as opposed to its normal text-only fashion.

The search giant appears to have kept the colours and fonts the same in its latest trial, but places individual results in white boxes on a mushroom grey background - the same that is currently used for the sticky header.

As part of the more streamlined look, the information cards that currently appear to the right of the screen are instead in line with all of the search results.

Minor design tweaks also include changing the Settings icon to three vertical dots, instead of the traditional cog, and making the search button a grey magnifying glass icon, as opposed to a white one on a blue background.

The new style is in line with the visual template Google has been applying across its products, called "Material Design". The company unveiled Material Design back in 2014, when it promised to apply the grid look to all of its products. 

The redesign follows an A/B test last month for black results, rather than blue, which disappointed many users.

Google puts a lot of thought into the exact colours it uses in its services - and for a good reason. A few years ago its A/B test of different shades of blue - nicknamed "50 shades of blue" - earned the company an extra $200 million (£138 million).

Designers at Google couldn't decide between two different blues, so they decided to test 41 shades between each blue to see which users preferred.

In the test, Google showed each shade to one per cent of its users, and found that users were more likely to click on a slightly more purple shade.

In a more recent test, the company last year spent months trialling blue navigation links before it finally replaced the red ones for all users.

The company has been criticised for its meticulous attention to design detail in the past. When Doug Bowman, a top designer at Google, left the company in 2009, he said: "It's true that a team at Google couldn't decide between two blues, so they're testing 41 shades between each blue to see which performs better.

"I can't operate in an environment like that. I've grown tired of debating such miniscule design decisions. There are more exciting design problems in this world to tackle."


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