Changes Coming To Google Search Results Page

According to TechCrunch, Google are preparing to roll out a change to the Google search results page. I haven’t seen the change myself yet as it is still in testing – only a minority of users will see it during this pilot phase.

Google Search Page Change – This change involves the Search Tools – currently these appear in the left sidebar and make it easy to switch to a search for images, news or to filter results by time etc.

The proposed change is to move them to a series of drop down menus under the search box – at the top of the page. From a design and user interface perspective, this does make some sense.

The top of the page is a more natural position for the search tools – under your search text and easier to find as you’re conditioned to reading up/down the results, not left/right. You can see the current/old design below, showing the Search Tools in the left sidebar:

google search 1

Old format – Search Tools in left sidebar

And the new design below, showing the Search Tools menu bar at the top of the page under the text search box:

google search 2

New format – Search Tools in top menu bar

However, the new approach also has several drawbacks:

1. It adds another ‘toolbar’ at the top of the page, reducing the viewable height of the screen – and therefore the number of results displayed per screen. This is particularly of concern for the shorter widescreens used in netbooks, ultrabooks and laptops.

2. It leaves a blank white space at the left side of the screen – initially this looks fresh and clean but it begs the question as to what Google will do with it in future. There’s a strong suspicion that this newly empty space could be used to display more adverts to the left of the search results – in text format or in vertical banners.

3. It makes it even more obvious how many of the Search Tools are just a duplicate of the same functionality in the black Google product navigation bar at the top of the page…

4. Personally I like to leave the Search Tools displayed in their expanded format which allows you to see instantly which filter is currently selected and makes it easy (one click) to change filters e.g. from ‘past 24 hours’ to ‘past month’ etc

Although I haven’t been able to use the new ‘Search Tools’ at the top of the page yet, it looks as if you have to select from the drop down menu (2 clicks) each and every time you want to change filters i.e. they can’t be left expanded on screen (as that would hide the actual search results and site previews).

It also suggests that you can’t instantly see which filters are currently engaged – you have to select the drop down menu just to find out which is more time consuming than the current format.

Conclusion

The new positioning of the Search Tools looks more natural – at first glance.

But there are user interface disadvantages which may reduce functionality, increase time taken to filter results and result in on-screen duplication of options.

It does make me wonder why Google don’t just add a Search Tools drop down menu to the existing black product bar – they could then lose the Search Tools side/top bar completely? There’s ample space to achieve this integration and it would still free up the left sidebar for future use…

I’ll reserve judgement on the change until I’ve had chance to use it in earnest but what do you think – is moving the search tools from left sidebar to the top of the page a good idea?