Google is brilliant at many things – and worse at others – but personally, I think the smartest move it ever made was making its home page ridiculously simple – a plain white background with the Google logo, a search box and a search button.
Back in 1996 the internet was awash with search engines, many of them sporting obnoxious mascots like the depressing black dog of Lycos and the snooty butler of Ask Jeeves.
Many of these sites saw themselves as ‘portals’ – gatekeepers of the burgeoning World Wide Web, though some of them eschewed their position as curators carefully picking the choicest morsels of the web to serve to us, and instead slowly spewed a load of image-heavy articles and websites onto our screens, giving our 56K modems data aneurysms as they struggled to download it all.
In contrast, Google’s decision to put the user’s search front and center was revolutionary. It meant the page wasn’t confusing, and it also loaded much faster than its competitors.
So, the news that Google is changing its home page for the first time since 1996 concerns me. Has Google forgotten that simplicity was such a huge part of its success?
Flashy web hole
No one wants to be known for a ‘boring’ website, so I can sort of see why Google may want to jazz up its home page, but when I want to search something on the internet, I’m not also looking to check out the weather forecast, browse news stories or anything else Google may think I’m interested in.
Of course, as I’ve sold my soul to Google a long time ago (in the form of Google Rewards), the search company knows everything about me and my interests, so there is a good chance it will show something I’m likely to click on, potentially distracting me from my super important search for funny cat photos.
On the subject of Google Rewards, it’s a real eye opener when you realise the price you put on your hard-fought privacy is around $0.06 in Google Play credits.
All of this extra information could simply obscure Google’s beautiful simplicity, and make searching more time consuming as we inevitably get lost down the rabbit hole of click-bait links. Google has toyed with turning itself into a web portal before with the ill-fated iGoogle, but the less said about that the better.
I don’t want to appear like an old man yelling at clouds. Change is usually A Good Thing (especially when it comes to underwear), but every so often something works so well that it just doesn’t need tweaking (occasionally like underwear).
If Google lets pizzazz get in the way of a simple, fast and useful search, I may end up jumping ship to Bing.
Not really. I’d never use Bing.