It’s the little things that catch your eye sometimes.
To your average reader the almost microscopic adjustment to Google’s interface would barely register. It is literally a matter of an extra click.
Where once you could move straight from the web search into a news search simply by selecting the different search function in the top bar, you now need to open the news channel and retype your search term. Watch the video below and it will probably make more sense…
Well, you might argue, what is the harm in adding the extra three seconds it takes the average user to retype “Lady GaGa” and hit enter?
My response would be: seconds matter. For a company that heralded the arrival of instant search with the news that they could shave two to five seconds of every search by bridging the gap between reading speed (30 milliseconds between glances at different areas of a page) and typing speed (300 milliseconds between keystrokes), this is a step backwards. Or at least a step forwards at a fractionally slower pace than usual.
So the obvious next question is ‘why?’
The answer lies in the way Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is repositioning itself as an interface for the way we use the web. Rather than providing pure, pared-down search results as it used to, we are now getting enhanced results. Where once you would scroll through a democratic, if utilitarian, page that displayed each result in exactly the same fashion, there is now greater variety and richness.
The introduction of universal search (‘everything’) saw search engine results pages (SERPs) incorporate a mixture of video, images and news, while a more recent shift has seen the introduction of snippets – text that might be grabbed from page content rather than automatically going for a header – to further enhance the display. The arrival of Google+ and the ability to promote particular sites and influence the results others see has added another layer of information to SERPs.
The point of this process is both strategic and, of course, user-focused. On the one hand, this rich information and the introduction of social elements are designed to give users more help. On the other, it is about Google working more closely with content providers and ensuring its brand is seen as a high-quality interface and not just a search tool. Take a look at the quick tour of Google News changes by using the presentation below…
From the display to the navigation, Google News is now less of a traditional search tool than a landing page for a ‘news session’ (you could call it a ‘newspaper’…).
Like the BBC’s Beta page, the site is now geared more explicitly towards serendipitous search. Every session must start by visiting the magazine-style front page. You arrive and might be looking for a particular story, but are also presented with curated picks that could catch your eye, as well as feature-rich and customised options to improve the presentation and relevancy of results.
I could see how a combination of curated content from editors and Amazon-style recommendations based on your reading history (and ‘plus ones’), as well as those of others on the Google+ platform, could further enhance this. This mixture of recommendation, referral and retrieval is heralding a shift in how Google works: delivering answers not just for specific user queries, but providing unprompted answers and suggestions.
And all from just an extra click of the mouse button.
This article originally appeared in NewsReach.