Fading Navigation on the Google Homepage
Since a few weeks now (correct me if I’m wrong) search engine Google changed the navigation on Google homepage. When you visit the Google homepage you’ll see the logo, the search box, the search button and the ‘I’m feeling lucky’ button, nothing else. The navigation on top of the page and below the searchbox is made invisible and will only appear (by fading in) when you move the mouse cursor or hit the return key when you start a new search.
A brilliant move or just messing around trying to improve the usability?
Who will benefit from these changes?
The majority of the people who navigate to Google use the search engine, not the mail application or the news-provider. Especially to this group, the changes mean a better usability and an improvement of the search experience because the searchbox and buttons are much more emphasized. No more cluttered links on top and bottom to distract them from the searchbox, the most important object on Google.
The other group contains regular users who work intensively with the other features of Google, which are not available at first sight. I can imagine that it could work on their nerves and they possibly need some time to adjust, but the learning process doesn’t take that much time and effort. It looks like Google altered the page tremendously, but the information is still available and need only one mouse movement to activate it. You can compare this with something Google did several months ago, a bigger text field and font size. It was a rather huge deal back then but we got over it in the end.
Some points to consider
Another issue I’d like to point out is that some users might overlook the search for images, Gmail or Google maps because they didn’t move the mouse cursor. This is even stimulated by another trick, putting the focus on the textfield. Visitors don’t need to move the cursor to the textfield and left-click any longer, nor do they need to submit the query by clicking the search button (they can just hit the return key). The consequence is that the navigation becomes visible only when the search results appear, but by then it’s already too late because the results require all our attention.
To me this looks like a small matter because I assume most users are still clicking the search button instead of hitting the return key. If someone has the numbers on this one, please let me know.
The last thing I would like to mention is that Google doesn’t give the us the option to enable or disable this. In fact, we don’t have any control over it, whether we like it or not. A simple checkbox under ‘preferences’ would be nice.
Personally I think Google did a nice job of cleaning the page without disturbing the functionality, users still know what to do when they arrived at the page.
They’ve created a very simple and intuitive search experience, going back to the very basic principles of a search engine. The interface looks a lot cleaner because the clutter of blue links is gone. The textbox and buttons, the only two necessary objects to start a new search, are more emphasized.
Due to this minimalistic approach the logo stand out more, which enhances the brand as well.
Although these changes are for the better, Google needs to understand that not everyone is as pleased with the results as I am. As mentioned before, give the users the ability to make the navigation visible by default.