Google backs off redesign of Chrome's New Tab Page

Users say awful revamp hinders productivity

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Users hammered Google over the change most loudly in a long thread where Google asked for comments on the new NTP. There they argued that the move was a sop to novices at the expense of experienced Chrome users, that the large Google search box was redundant when the Omnibox was available, and that access to Web apps had been demoted to a button.

"I really dislike it," said someone identified as "Terrible Tony" on April 18. "The number of favorite pages displayed has dropped considerably, and I don't need a giant search bar taking up space when I use the Omnibox."

"Awful" was a word that many used.

"Awful awful awful regression," said "etacarinae" on the same thread April 19. "Stop breaking things that aren't broken for the sake of breaking things."

"I can't believe someone looked at Chrome and went, 'Yeah, this needs more search bars,'" said Kirill Vovk on Friday. "[The] New Tab Page design has no improvements at all and hampers usability for me."

Dissatisfied users even found a way to restore the older design by modifying a setting in the chrome://flags page.

Google seemed to bend to the criticism when Wald, who cited research that showed most users clicked only the first four thumbnails, said the team was "looking at designs that reincorporate 8 tiles to see if we can make them work." He also said Google was considering or working on other changes, including a Web apps launcher to debut in "a few months," but acknowledged that the disappearance of the apps view from the NTP "isn't great."

"I promise your concerns are being heard," Wald wrote April 23. "Please understand that there are a lot of considerations in play in a change like this, and we're doing our best to find the right end state."

Yesterday, Patrick Minze reported on the same thread that his copy of Chrome had reverted to the older NTP design when he updated the beta to version 27.0.1453.65. Computerworld also saw the old-style NTP after restarting that same version of the Chrome beta.

It appeared Google reset the default of the "Enable Instant extended API," one of the many settings found after typing "chrome://flags" in the Omnibox, from the previous enabled to disabled instead. (That, in fact, was the workaround others had discovered months ago.)

François Beaufort, who closely tracks Chrome and Chrome OS changes on his Google+ page, said on Friday that the latest Chromium build -- Chromium is the open-source project that feeds code into both Chrome and Chrome OS -- used a new NTP that, while retaining the Google search field, showed eight, not four, thumbnails.

While Google does not hew to a set release schedule for Chrome, version 27 should shift from beta to a final edition some time in May.

This article, Google backs off redesign of Chrome's New Tab Page, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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