A few weeks ago, I asked Jon Wiley, the lead designer for Google Search, if the Google homepage would ever fundamentally change, or if it would always be a white box beneath the Google logo.
He wouldn’t commit either way, but admitted a particular fondness for the design, citing its “iconic simplicity” and pointing out that among other tweaks, Google had actually made that search box larger over the years, a seemingly small change that made a huge difference to usability.
Now, student Jake Nolan has taken Google’s bigger-box evolution a step further. He has knocked down its four walls completely through a concept that supersizes search text to fill the screen and which activates voice search by default. Here at Co.Design, we think it’s a pretty remarkable piece of work.
Aside from eliminating squinting for those of us who really should be wearing glasses, the larger search font turns search terms into a force larger than even the Google logo. This creates a power shift that tacitly implies what the user is looking for is what matters most on the page–and suggests that Google’s logo isn’t what Google is anymore, but that Google has become both our question and our answer.
This philosophy–of Google, not as a search page, but as an active conversation–plays well into what Wiley told me next.
“A decade ago, the place where you began your question with Google was, you sat at your desktop computer, and you’d go to Google.com, and that was the mechanism with which you asked your question to Google. And then, with the advent of mobile phones, you could ask a question pretty much anywhere.
“Now we’re at the point where you have a question in context, you can turn to Google, ask, and get an answer. The look of that conversation has changed. It’s not that the Google homepage is getting replaced, but we’re adding all these ways for someone to ask a question. As more screens have a voice, you’re actually going to see a diversity of ways to interact. It’s actually going to be spread across many displays, surfaces, and modes of interaction.
“I’m fascinated. How do we maintain that simple, beautiful, useful experience, but do it through the entire spread of your environment?”
Now, there are reasons why Nolan’s design may not be as wonderful as it appears. Namely, Google has designed its homepage search largely around efficiency. Each millisecond wasted in the interface can translate to countless hours of lost productivity around the world. As of today, the moment you begin typing in Google’s search box, you’re transported to Google’s results page. There’s no time allotted to stop and smell the typographical roses.
But as we talk to devices such as Google Glass, and consider how Google Now automatically searches our context to provide us with answers before we ask questions, it’s clear that Google search has broken out of the box already. Why not bring the Google homepage along for the ride?