Google may have missed mark with search page experiment

Users tweet on simplified search results attempt; many feel sometimes less is just less

Google is experimenting with a new look for its search results page, and so far users don't seem impressed.

For the past few days, people have been taking to Twitter to largely complain about the new look that Google has been toying with. According to Google, the experiment is part of what the company calls a "bucket test," which is a test with changes made visible only to a small percentage of users.

"Google is constantly experimenting with new features," a company spokeswoman said.

Google appears to be playing around with simplifying the look of the search results page. There appears to be less information, a lot more white space, and dotted lines in between the results. There are also fewer search results per page.

Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group, said there's a finesse to presenting search results, and Google seems to have missed it with this new look. "There's a line between uncluttered and obtuse," he said. "It looks like Google's new sparse search page is on the obtuse side. Sometimes less is more, but in this case, it's just less."

Olds also noted that users have flocked to Google over the years because of the amount of information that the search engine gives them. This experiment seems counterintuitive.

"This new look puts many fewer results up on the screen and will force a lot of scrolling and next-paging," he added. "A suspicious person might wonder if putting fewer results on the first page might lead to greater hits on those results -- meaning higher value for whatever result ends up on the prime real estate."

While only a small number of users have been getting the experimental results pages, those pages are getting a lot of comments on Twitter.

Atli_vidar tweeted, "New google layout being tested, doesn't look as efficient as before," while DaveChaffey tweeted, "I've been getting the new Google SERPS over the weekend and dislike it too = slower to scan. Agree?"

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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