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Google Gives Desktop and Mobile Search Pages a Makeover

Google Gives Desktop and Mobile Search Pages a Makeover

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) began rolling out a new look and feel for search results on both its desktop and mobile platforms Wednesday.

For the desktop, it has added navigation options to the left-hand side of the results page, listing the most relevant search tools and refinements for a user's query. For the mobile platform, iPhone and Android device users can now tap on a button to the left of the search box on the results page to see a new search options menu and select any item in the menu to refine a given search.

The rollout is being staggered, and is scheduled for completion Thursday, Google spokesperson Nate Tyler told TechNewsWorld.

The New Face of Google's Desktop Search

The"spring metamorphosis," as Google calls the changes to its search results page, displays"Universal Search," the"Search Options" panel and a technology built around "Google Squared" on the left-hand side of the page.

Universal Search locates the most relevant results for a user's search. The left-hand panel of the search results page now suggests the most relevant genres of results for a query at the top. Google is retaining the "everything" option, which integrates different types of results into the main results, but users can now further refine their results through the left-hand side of the page.

The"Search Options" panel, launched last spring, brought slice-and-dice tools to search, and these are now showcased on the left-hand side of the new search results page so users can get different views of their results.

"Google Squared," an experimental semantic search tool at Google Labs that takes a category and creates a starter "square" of information, is the basis for automatically fetching and organizing facts from across the Internet. The left-hand side of the new Google search results page has a "Something Different" feature, which is built on"Google Squared" technology.

The "Something Different" feature lets users find other topics related to their queries.

Google Search Mobile -- The Next Generation

Google is also rolling out a new look and feel for Google mobile search results to iPhones and Android mobile devices in the United States.

The search results page on these devices in the U.S. will have a button to the left of the search box that launches a new search options menu. Users can select any item in this menu to refine their search.

When the menu expands, the search results slide offscreen to the right. Users can still interact with those results and see them all by panning to the right.

Google has also added additional menu options such as "News" and "Products."

It plans to support more devices and locales in the future and expanding the number of options available.

Managing the Rollouts

Google is rolling out the updates to users in 37 languages. Apart from English, they include Chinese, Japanese, Korean, French, Spanish, Swedish and Lithuanian, Google's Tyler said.

The rollout is being handled in stages, so not all users will get them at the same time, even here in the U.S.

"To ensure the stable launch of large changes like this, we roll products out to our users gradually, testing performance as we go," Tyler explained. Google expects to complete the rollout Thursday.

"Staging an update is typical business practice for large websites or cloud service providers," Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst at the 451 Group, told TechNewsWorld."This allows issues to be discovered and resolved prior to a full-scale replacement of previous technology."

Same-Old, Same-Old?

Though Google has left its plain, white opening page mostly unchanged since it was introduced to the Web (save for various holiday and event-themed logo variations), it often makes behind-the scenes changes and augmentations, some of which are more apparent to users than others. In fact, Google's latest set of changes may strike sharp-eyed users as similar to those rolled out by Ask.com in 2007 and Bing and Yahoo (Nasdaq: YHOO) last year.

"Every change we make at Google is meant to serve our users," Google's Tyler said."We're constantly working to improve all of our products."

Google makes"hundreds and hundreds of changes" to the search user interface every year while also experimenting with hundreds more, Tyler said."Our latest enhancement to the results page is meant to help our users more easily access search tools, which is something we've been experimenting with since 2006," he added.

"Google, like any technology company, does its best to learn from its competitors as well as from its customers. This move is likely to have been prompted by both groups," the 451 Group's Kusnetzky pointed out.

"As the dominant vendor in the space, Google doesn't have to be better than Bing, it simply has to be good enough so that people don't move to Bing, and much of this is impression," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group."This may reach that bar."

However, Google's tardiness in coming up with a look and feel adopted by its major competitors could point to a larger problem, Enderle opined.

"Google increasingly appears to be making the same classic mistake that other large companies before it have made, which is forgetting what business it is in and losing focus," Enderle told TechNewsWorld. "This is slowing them down significantly."


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