Google has of course announced the Google+ Project, the company's new approach at a social network. You may have noticed that there are some subtle design changes to Google properties as well - most noticeably a black bar going across the top.
When you get into the Google+ Project (it requires an invite), you will see a "You" link up there. For now, you get standard stuff like "web," "images," "videos," "maps," "news," "shopping," "Gmail," and "more." Google says its new design focuses on three key design principles, which it describes as:
- Focus: Whether you’re searching, emailing or looking for a map, the only thing you should be concerned about is getting what you want. Our job is to provide the tools and features that will get you there quickly and easily. With the design changes in the coming weeks and months, we’re bringing forward the stuff that matters to you and getting all the other clutter out of your way. Even simple changes, like using bolder colors for actionable buttons or hiding navigation buttons until they’re actually needed, can help you better focus on only what you need at the moment.
- Elasticity: In the early days, there was pretty much just one way to use Google: on a desktop computer with an average-sized monitor. Over a decade later, all it takes is a look around one’s home or office at the various mobile devices, tablets, high-resolution monitors and TVs to see a plethora of ways to access the web. The new design will soon allow you to seamlessly transition from one device to another and have a consistent visual experience. We aim to bring you this flexibility without sacrificing style or usefulness.
- Effortlessness: Our design philosophy is to combine power with simplicity. We want to keep our look simple and clean, but behind the seemingly simple design, use new technologies like HTML5, WebGL and the latest, fastest browsers to make sure you have all the power of the web behind you.
The bar running across multiple properties should help it promote Google+ greatly, as it kind of ties things together. This should be key in Google's strategy. Interestingly, the bar doesn't appear on all of the key properties. For me, it's lacking from both Gmail and YouTube, at this point, which are arguably two of Google's strongest social assets. It may still be rolling out, however:
@ryanheiser I have the black "Google Bar" in my gmail this AM....
Not everyone is thrilled with the black bar. Shocker. Here are a few examples of criticism from Twitter:
"Hey, let's take the one color we almost never use and make the navigation bar that!" ~Google
@Google What's with the ugly black bar at the top of my search results?!? Weren't you all about simple and uncluttered?Yo!
The black menu bar at the top of the google home page is annoying... looks too much like the Bing home page.
I still can't get over the black bar on google, it just ruins the whole feel of google. It was nice the way it was, may e some gradient?
Google, your black nav bar blows. If I wanted a shitty UI I'd use Yahoo.
Google does say to watch for design changes across all of its products over the next few months. In fact, the company is already showing off some changes with Google Maps.
YouTube has already received a significant change in design in recent memory, but that doesn't mean we won't see more. Also look for Google Music to get integrated with Google's social efforts. It's currently in beta, but Facebook is expected to launch a new music service soon, so I would assume Google would want Music to be a key part of its own social experience as well.