Google has just released an updated version of Google Docs & Spreadsheets. While the update really only truly affects to the document browsing page it adds a substantial amount of usability to the entire application. The visual overhaul is quite a step up and shows that, once again, Google isn’t afraid to roll out disruptive changes in an effort to enhance user experience (as it did with Analytics).
I call this disruptive because, while the interface overhaul offers a far shorter learning curve for new users, it also means old users need to learn what is essentially (if only partially) a new application. I’m willing to bet that the change is dramatic enough to annoy the hell out of a handful of heavy users (once again, as with Analytics). It’s interesting to see Tags (or Labels) refashioned into Folders — this makes sense considering a) you’re dealing with documents and b) it simplifies the transition from desktop to webtop.
Overall, it’s a sign of a maturing Google. Not afraid to do things differently (Gmail) but also willing to change its mind for the benefit of the end-user. The old tag’n‘search interface has been turned into something far more familiar, classic even. Some might say that this looks “less Google” and it will be interesting to see if similar changes are rolled out into more apps in the future in an effort to bring them more in line with people’s expectations. While oft hailed as a UI masterpiece I still hear of many people shying away from Gmail because they “don’t get the interface” so maybe that’s next.