UX Magazine

Defining and Informing the Complex Field of User Experience (UX)
Article No. 440 December 4, 2009

Google's magic trick

Google has "upgraded" its homepage with a new gimmick. As they explain on their blog: "For the vast majority of people who come to the Google homepage, they are coming in order to search..." so they removed everything else. With a swipe of the mouse, the page and all its functions fade back in...

I can't say I'm thrilled. But on the other hand, I really like the fact that Google is still experimenting, and trying out new things and unique approaches to indifferent problems. I mean, really... did you ever consider the shortcut links as obtrusive or distracting until now?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

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Constantinos is employed as a Creative Director for Tribal DDB Athens. In his ever dwindling spare time he works on the development of UX Magazine and Joblet. You can find out more about him here of follow him on twitter.

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Comments

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Where is this function? I haven't seen it yet or I haven't noticed it.
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Lilia Gephardt | Reseller Hosting

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I think the important part is that second, before you move the mouse, that you focus your eyes on the searchbox and you are not distracted by the rest of the links on the page.
It's only enahncing what has already been done, but if this works, google can have a clean look and still add lots of links after the mouse is moved.
I also don't think this will stay forever, but I do hope they comment on the results of this test.

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I'm not sure about this -- it's an interesting experiment but I'm also one of the (arguably) many people who move their mouse and click on the search box when I do, on rare occasions, use the Google homepage to search.

This feels like an idea to simplify the homepage (and bring it back to its roots) that could only happen without that one big compromise. I still applaud Google for trying things out and they will now undoubtebly be taking all the feedback into account.

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I typically search Google using Firefox's native search bar, in which case I never see the home page. On the occasion that I visit google.com via the location bar, I have a personalised/regional link below the search box for "Go To Google South Africa" (google.co.za), which I sometimes reconsider using if my search requires it.

This link is now hidden by default, so I have to first activate the rest of the page before I can see the link to click it.

I really don't see the benefit, and agree with sentiments above that it's gimmicky. Change for the sake of change and not out of necessity. I don't see it surviving.

This should be a search preference in Settings at least.

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I actually just updated my blog post in response to this comment.

The part of this I didn't really understand was...

We know Google values speed. A half-second increase in page load correlates directly with a 20% decrease in traffic. I'm not a great developer, but I don't think there is any way, no matter how well written and compressed, to make more data and more rendering happen faster. This change has added time to the page load.

If it is so insignificant, why risk the traffic drop?

The process for a basic search would look something like this:

Type google.com > Page Load > Find Form > Enter Query > Submit > Results

While there may be improvements to be made in the speed of the servers, the pages already load in about 3 tenths of a second in my informal test. There is only marginal improvement to be had there. Similar for clicking "submit" and retrieving the results. Those pages are quick and to shave off a hundredth of a second -- while it may make a difference -- is diminishing returns.

On the other hand, the meat of the time spent searching is on writing the actual query and the time right after the page loads where you determine your next step.

Google has already taken steps to speed the former issue with their "suggest as you type" feature. Similar to the hide-away menus, the added code and render time added to the initial load, but, (and I'm guessing) sped up a much more time-consuming task.

The hide-away menus help the user focus on just the tool for the task at hand. I'd be curious to know how much the menus were detracting from the search box and how much time user spent scanning the page for the input box. It can't be much, but it must have been enough to justify the development expense as well as making up any losses with the added code.

Knowing the Google would never release a feature on their namesake product without fully testing the impact, I think this is a feature that'll be sticking around a while. I'd also expect to see more refinements to the "query-entering stage" as a place where the most time is spent and the biggest gains can be had.

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Three thoughts:

1) The un-centered text box in the minimalist version really bugs me.

2) This is about the appearance of speed, even though I'd bet it actually loads slower (microseconds for the added code and compilation and render, but they add up!)

3) Some large percentage of users to google.com come only for the search, not as a gateway to other Google products. This is about creating better pathways based on the entrance page.

I'm a sucker for this sort of thing, although I think in general it's pretty gimmicky.

Minimalist Google (Yep, Even Less)

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Right, I commented about this with another website. Doesnt it seem like a flash in the pan because as soon as you move the mouse it shows the content. What is this really saving by hiding the content from the outset?

Looking for feedback?

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I'm really impressed and humbled that this variant passed testing, as I would have guessed otherwise. Goes to show that you can't trust your intuition alone. Yay for A/B testing!

-isaacw

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@Richard: Regarding the formatting options, your point has been noted... Thanks!

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Not sure if I like this or not. I tend to always move the mouse onto the page without even thinking about it. Maybe it will make me start just typing a search term in.

Look out for this becoming a trend (or at least a fad) on other websites

Accessibleweb Design, Build and Testing

By the way, the comments system lacks some "we use common sense (tm)" as if I type in a comment then click on the link to get info about formatting options, when I then click the back button all my comment text has disappeared.