Google Unveils Google+ Redesign with Customization

Google+ has been going pretty strong since its launch back in June of 2011. In just a year, it amassed 170 million users — Google is obviously not going to give out the numbers of those who actually use the service, but they like to say 170 million do, so we’ll go with that. Today, Google announced that they are expanding the social network even more with lots of extra customization, a major redesign, better Hangouts, and more.

Not that Google+’s layout was terrible before, but Google thinks they can really enhance it by giving users some customization all around. For instance, with the redesign, you can now customize the new navigation bar on the left by simply dragging the apps around. If you don’t want to see one anymore, then just drag it to the animated “More” button to remove them. Read on for the other notable changes in Google’s redesign along with some opinion on the subject.

Becoming Media-Centered

Minimal, larger photos -- not bad, but not great.

With the redesign, Google+ is becoming much more media-centered, especially in the art of photography. Trey Ratcliff, one of my favorite photographers and one of the most prominent ones on Google+, has been using the network for quite a while as his main connection to his followers. Instead of Facebook or Twitter, Ratcliff found Google+ to be a far better solution for sharing photos — and boy, it is.

The problem is, Google+ isn’t just a photo sharing network, it’s supposed to be a social network for all things. I think Google is trying to put emphasis on the elements that are really taking off to get users to the network, then hopefully they’ll expand other areas of it. I did notice from the screenshots that they are also adding trending bar to the right side of the main Google+ page — hello Twitter? I’m not sure how that’s going to work out, but time will tell.

A Bit of Opinion

We must wonder though, why the sudden redesign of a network that’s not even a year old? I think Google is trying to make things more appealing, and they’re doing it with their same motto of things being “simpler”, which is hard to grasp. Sure, Google isn’t complicated, but are they trying to raise the bar of what we think is “simple” or what? For a search engine, I think DuckDuckGo is simple. Google once was as well, but then they grew. Their social network is the same in that it grew, requiring a “simpler” approach, which I just don’t see in this redesign.

Other things I must question are whether it will last much longer. There are many avid users of Google+, but are there enough? It’s not about what they currently have, it’s about what the future holds for them — right now, it looks like things aren’t going so well, hence the redesign for some extra appeal.

This sure looks a bit cluttered to me.

As for the redesign itself, Google deems it “beautiful”, yet there is little color and the design as a whole is mostly composed of shades of gray, a bit of green, a pinch yellow, and the multicolored Google logo. Other than that, I see this entire redesign as a bland approach to design. I mean, go look at Facebook and Twitter — they’re vibrant; Twitter even has customizable colors and everything. What happened to all of that? Are we going back to the black and white age?

The color isn’t gone entirely, you can hover over the navigation bar buttons to get a bit of life in there, but other than that things seem to be a bit boring. This redesign was obviously about more than just the color though, since a bit more has changed. For instance, there’s now a cover photo above your profile — just like Facebook. Wait, why must Google go copy these features? Can’t anyone come up with something original anymore? The cover photo does well as an extra way to show people what kind of person you are in a visual way, but still.

I think Google’s move to simplicity is actually a move backwards. Not only are they adding a lot more and making things complicated, but they’re also removing the 3D feel that the Web used to have. Their Google Chrome icon was an example of that when it went from the beautiful 3D to 2D: flat, boring, lifeless. Retro is fun, but not when it becomes a standard. Why are things digressing all of the sudden?

It’s not just the lack of 3D objects that can be annoying though, the presence of them is also a bit irritating. An example would be that screenshot above of the redesign. The problem with it is the difference in objects — some are 3D, others are 2D. They just don’t mix well and look downright strange together.

One of the most noticeable 3D objects is the new share box at the top. Notice how it sticks out while the rest of the elements just look flat. It’s a bit inconsistent, in my opinion. Sure, it gives attention to the one box, but everything else looks a bit different, which doesn’t make much sense.

Thoughts?

This new design will be rolling out to all users soon. What are your thoughts on this new design? Do you like it or will you still not be using Google+ because of Google’s bad reputation with privacy?


  • http://twitter.com/a_w_young Adam

    The only reason Google+ is constantly called a “ghost town” and the like is because they were not very clear about whether it was finished or a beta, and the most important thing is missing: a finished API.

    If influencers and professionals can’t use their tools to post/manage/measure/etc, they’re not going to use it very much, leaving everyone else with.. nothing to be excited about but the platform itself.

    I’m surprised a redesign came before they finished that.

    I think the old design was a lot cleaner and straight forward and simple. The new one seems convoluted and difficult to navigate by comparison and it is starting to look more “facebookish”, in that the layout doesn’t make much sense, much space is wasted, random frames and things in the way..
    I can’t say I’m the biggest fan. I miss the clean white simpleness from before. It was a big strength to the site.

    • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

      I definitely agree on the lack of an API being a big reason we don’t get much engagement from Google+. It’s simply too much trouble to have to login and post updates individually for each blog post, when we can auto-publish to Twitter and Facebook.

      • http://android.appstorm.net/ MichaelJW

        I think this is intentional, though. Look at what Vic Gundotra said about curation. I suspect they’re holding off as long as they can on letting users post things automatically.

      • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

        Ah, true. Wow, interesting. And it is true: there’s way to many spambots on Twitter, for example, that wouldn’t be there if you couldn’t auto-post. And even RSS-fed Twitter feeds can get annoying. Perhaps I see his point, to a degree, at least.

    • http://papermail.me Jacob Penderworth

      That does make quite a bit of sense. I agree that they need an API and they really shouldn’t have spent so much effort on a redesign. Instead, it probably would have been better to improve on what they have and actually get some more traffic first. This redesign won’t boost traffic much — at least, not that I can see.

      As for the Facebook part, I see what you mean. Sadly, they are taking features from both Twitter and Facebook and combining them hoping that users will like it, but it’s not all that great.

  • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

    I just logged into the new Google+, and must agree that the design does feel odd. It’s mostly flat, but then the news feed itself scrolls with a slight 3D effect. Feels more app-ish than Facebook, perhaps, but feels odd too.

    But what can I say. Twitter will continue to be my primary social network, followed by Facebook, and I’ll only use Google+ when I must. This won’t change it for me, and I doubt it will for most people.

    • http://papermail.me Jacob Penderworth

      I deleted mine a while back because I just never used it and Twitter is so much more developed with lots of people I know on it. I think in the end it all comes down to how many of your friends use what.

  • Robert Benjamin

    I for one like the new design – the post seems to put a lot of focus on color being important in a design, but I think having a more minimalistic focus with splashes of color here and there fits the feel of Google+ quite nicely.

    Also, I don’t find the design cluttered or confusing at all – it might take a bit of getting used to, but it all looks natural to use.

    • http://papermail.me Jacob Penderworth

      I just like to see something a bit more lively is all. Google doesn’t seem to like it as much and instead focuses on a more minimal grayscale approach. There aren’t many different elements and everything looks too similar, which isn’t something I personally like to see in design — that’s why this is a half opinion post.

      • Franck

        I agree that this article is very centered around your personal opinion. I agree with Robert that I think the new design works very well. It took a few minutes to get used to the new navigation, but it is obvious that they had a very clear idea with the re-design. When I look a the minimized screenshots, I am confident that that they wanted to make all the content pop out. And the best way to do this is by toning down everything else. I think it is good move.
        I am not a Facebook user, but the few times I have used it I have found it a bit confusing and old-school looking. That site definitely need a re-design.

  • http://www.taur.in Lawrence Taur

    i really like the spacing. fills up my full hd screen monitor a bit more, and will make me want to use this more often. :D

  • http://thenextlab.com/ Steven

    I really like Google+ and new design makes it even more appealing.
    Currently I don’t use Google+ to socialize with friends but rather communicate with other bloggers, tech entrepreneurs and similar because currently these are the only people who are actively using it.

  • Kevin

    Something just came to me. Do you think that G+ might do better if it wasn’t a Google service, but was a project started by some new Silicon Valley start-up?

    My thinking is, aside from engineers and others who are more technically inclined, the typical internet users see Google as a Technology Company… something “boring” and not “cool” and their main products are search and mail and that may be all the typical user may ever use.

    If, however, a fresh new start-up came about with this exact product (called something else, of course) do you think the broader internet population might jump aboard quicker?

    • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

      You know what, you just might have a point.

  • http://goringeaccountants.co.uk London Accountant

    Google have recently made Google+ a REQUIREMENT for small businesses with their relocation of Google Places to Google Local +. Now if you are a small business and don’t have a Google+ page then you are simply going to lose out to your competition.

    Smart move by Google to get more people using their Facebook challenger. Don’t know if it’s a good thing for us users though yet – will have to wait and see.

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  • http://www.itrush.com IT Rush

    I love the new look actually, way to go big ‘G’ and hope to hear more features soon..

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