When Google rose to popularity, ever so long ago, it was considered to be revolutionizing search. Think about what search was like back then. AltaVista, Yahoo, and a bunch of others were competing for your queries, but Google brought a different approach. PageRank was a huge part of that, and is often credited as the big differentiator, but another key element to what made Google stand out was its simplistic design.
Do you miss the days when Google’s design was simpler? Do you think Bing is outdoing Google in design and usability? Let us know in the comments.
Google still largely maintains its simplicity on its homepage (though it has a less simplistic homepage option in iGoogle), but in the search results it’s another story. Search engines in the pre-Google days were essentially portals. Google, in its early days, was just fresh, clean search. These days, Google is much more portal-esque, with all of the company’s various products that are not only available from links across the broader Google experience (the top navigation and whatnot), but also injected into the search results in various capacities.
Much of what Google has on its search results pages these days has been added at different times. It wasn’t all overnight, but Bing’s redesign really shines a spotlight on just how much more complex Google results are these days.
When Bing launched, we saw Google start doing various things that looked more like what Bing was doing. That’s why it’s interesting to see today that Bing has implemented some Bing changes that are more reminiscent of Google, or at least a past version of Google.
Here’s what Bing’s results look like now:
Here are Google’s for the same query:
One of the big differentiators of Bing when it was first launched was the left panel of search options, which Google also adopted. Now, the two search engines have essentially reversed in design.
Of course some Google results are even more cluttered. Look at this one for “hotels”:
Bing’s blog provides a nice before and after comparison of its new design:
“Over the past few months, we’ve run dozens of experiments to determine how you read our pages to deliver the link you’re looking for,” says Bing Principal Group Program Manager Sally Salas. “Based on that feedback, we’ve tuned the site to make the entire page easier to scan, removing unnecessary distractions, and making the overall experience more predictable and useful. This refreshed design helps you do more with search—and gives us a canvas for bringing future innovation to you.”
“The new experience is more than skin-deep,” says Salas. “You will also notice faster page-load times and improved relevance under the hood. After all, our goal is to help people spend less time searching and more time doing. And changing how we look is the next big step in doing just that.”
Bing’s new design also highlights its use of Facebook (as opposed to Google’s +1s) in a more restrained and appealing way by showing thumbs up next to results that your Facebook friends have liked:
Josh Costine, who points out the Facebook-related tweaks, reports that the changes are fully rolling out.
Bing’s integration with Facebook is nothing new, but it’s likely that Bing will continue to look for ways to make it more useful, and this may appeal to users who have been on Facebook for years, establishing and cultivating relationships, who just aren’t getting the same kind of engagement on Google+ (if they’re using it at all).
The whole design element is kind of funny, considering that Google has historically taken a simplistic approach to design, which is still evident on its home page. It really illustrates how Google has evolved away from this approach on the results pages though, for better or worse.
Google is packing a lot of features into search results these days, however. Do you think this makes the pages more usable, or too cluttered? Let us know what you think. What do you think about Bing’s changes?
Bing says it is also testing out new ideas for its homepage, including a larger version of its daily image.