Google isn’t exactly staid, but Search, its bread and butter, tends to change slowly–a new feature here, a new logo there. Today is the first major overhaul in recent memory, and it looks pretty great.
Aesthetically, it’s a little cleaner and more modern; the graphics are a bit “flatter,” but it’s still obviously Google, what with the primary colors and simple layout. But the layout has definitely changed. Whereas in the old Google, the different types of search (video, photo, blog, news, maps, shopping) sat above the search results along with personal Google Apps like Gmail and Google Reader, now the search types have moved to a new left-hand column. (The old links to Google Apps remain in that top position.)
That new left-hand column is actually dynamic, responding to each search differently. Searching for “solar energy” places the “News” filter near the top of the list, since that search lends itself to news coverage. Searching for “NFL draft” pops the “Blogs” filter up at the top, since that’s getting lots of blog coverage, while searching for “Ray-Ban Wayfarer” will net you shopping results so you can look like the Blues Brothers.. The rest of the options are still there–you just have to click on the “more” link to see all the options. That’s good if you want, say, video results from a search for “Richard Avedon,” which is likely to recommend a photo search.
There’s also the “Something Different” link, which is sort of confusing. It offers search results for things that are related to your search, but wouldn’t normally show up. The only example I have is that a search for a specific sports team (let’s say the San Francisco Giants, in the interest of staying local) may turn up results for another sports team. I’m not sure why you’d want results that are by design answers to questions you didn’t ask, but it’s there if you want to try it out.
I like the direction this is all going. Novice users may finally try out the different types of Google search, now that they’re sitting right next to the general results and are targeted more specifically. Yet even a more advanced user shouldn’t find themselves inconvenienced by the changes–everything’s still there.