Ever since its inception, Google+ has had its share of (rightfully deserved) attention. Hailed as the Grim Reaper for the likes of Facebook by some, and another (soon-to-be-abandoned) experiment like Google Buzz by others, G+ has always been in the spotlight, ever since day one of its existence.
Now, loving (or hating) a particular social service depends on personal preferences. However, that does not mean we can take the goodness that G+ brings to the table, away from it. Recently, Google+ has undergone a massive
revamp, facelift, redesign. Here at 1WD, even though we aren’t generally intrigued enough to denote an entire article to a particular website’s redesign, with the level of attention that G+ tends to receive, it makes sense to take a deeper look at it.
However, before we take a look at the new G+, let us first spend some time discussing the old one. As most of you must’ve seen, earlier, G+ was divided into three columns – and a horizontal bar on top for search, profile, etc. Clean, simple, minimal – and so on. Truth be told, the old Google+ reminded us of Facebook’s layout, of course without the blue color.
Unlike the older design, the newer look of G+ does away with traditional layout. Now, the interface is packed with buttons, that provide both menus and sub-menus (on hover). Shades of gray have been used to complement the white interface – overall, the new look does well, and is impressive. Plus, the buttons and menus ensure that there exists a properly defined hierarchy on pages.
Actually, the new layout of G+ is way more complicated than the older one – you have the chat segment to your right, adjacent to the suggestions/trending sections, the navigation buttons on your left, and of course the main content stream right in front. Links about your circles sit in a horizontal bar on the top of the main segment, but below the extra-large search bar.
Speaking of colors, the primary portions are in white while the secondary portions are in gray. Also, Google+ comes with its own Nomenclature:
- Navigation strip on the left: RIBBON
- Buttons on the Ribbon: APPLICATIONS
- The main content region: CARD
- Region under each post with comments, shares, etc.: ACTIVITY DRAWER
The older Google+ had simple, abstract icons – the newer one retains the simplicity, but has added some amount of gradience and subtlety. The icons in general are not prominently colored, but they become full colored as soon as you hover your cursor over them. In fact, this color-on-hover effect is visible all throughout the new G+ interface.
Right between the main content region and the chat section, lies the sidebar, containing useful stuff such as ‘Trending’ (popular hash-tags), ‘You Might Like’ (people/pages that resemble your interests) and ‘You Might Know’ (people you might be knowing). The sidebar is neatly organized and yes, the hover effect is visible on the links.
Once you open your profile page, the first thing that will meet your eyes is the cover image – an obvious import from Facebook. However, unlike FB, G+ has also placed a default cover image with, well, bubbles. The profile picture, unlike the previous layout, is now placed on the right hand side – and is bigger as compared to the profile pictures on Facebook.
Drawbacks and Criticism
Nothing is perfect. While the redesigned Google+ does have many interesting features, it has also received its share of criticism.
For a start, the website is a good example of minimal and responsive web design done incorrectly. If you are on a large display, you will be greeted with an awkward level of whitespace. There is a patch for the same, but it exists only for Google Chrome users – if you are using a different web browser, get used to the whitespace, until it is cured. Alternatively, you can try being innovative, and share some hilarious laughs owing to the whitespace:
And another one:
Apart from that, certain features of G+ redesign look blatant imports from FB – apart from the cover image, the chat box is now on the right (with names and profile pictures), and so on.
Google+ – Present Promises, Future Dreams?
Google have had their share of experimenting with social networks in the past – Wave, Buzz and even Orkut – all were launched/adopted with a lot of hype, but fell out of favor quite soon. At the moment, Google+ has over 100 million active users. Compared to Facebook, this user base is relatively small, but keeping in mind the 140+ million user base of Twitter, G+ surely has a good chance to be the second most used social network. Obviously, Google does not seem to have any thoughts of abandoning G+ like its previous experiments.
With the new redesign, Google+ is trying to stand apart. The aim is not to project itself as an alternative to Facebook, but instead, to carve an identity of its own (much like Twitter has done). The new interface is surely fun to use, and has certain interesting innovations. The initial hiccups can and will certainly be taken care of, and once that is done, G+ can propagate itself as a social network with its own distinct identity, not merely a clone of Facebook.
The above aim is well highlighted in the new look of G+. The design gives prominence to features that are identified with G+ – Hangouts, for instance. While features such as cover image for profiles are clear imports from FB, overall the design is refreshing.
What are your thoughts about recent Google+ redesign – love it, hate it? Why?
Sufyan bin Uzayr writes for various magazine and blogs, and is the author of "Sufism: A Brief History". He blogs about technology, Linux and open source, mobile, web design and development, typography, and Content Management Systems at Code Carbon. You can learn more about him, follow him on Twitter or friend him on Facebook and Google+.