In the world of business, the more unified the approach of a company is the more likely it is to streamline operations and offer a better product to customers. The way that humans interact with and use the internet is changing now more than it ever has in the past. Gone are the days of needing to find a desktop computer shackled to a landline connection in order to surf the web. Humans connect from laptops in a coffee shop, tablets from a park bench, and smartphones on a city bus.
Google is notorious for testing and tweaking its website in an effort to provide web surfers with a more friendly, and perhaps more unified, experience. This past week users of Google.com might have noticed a new test underway that offered a new navigation experience on the site. A new navigation experience alone isn’t necessarily worth writing home about, however this navigation experience has the appearance of a unified navigation system for all Google platforms.
The new navigation test appeared on Google.com this past week with a simple box in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Clicking on the box opens up a variety of search options Google users are already familiar with such as Google+, Images, Maps, YouTube, and Gmail to name a few. There is also the option to click on a link to “even more” and discover more Google products and services.
While any potential changes to Google.com are worth knowing about, on this surface this wouldn’t seem like a big deal. However, the new navigation method is eerily similar to that used on Chromebooks and the Android Mobile OS. This fact leads some to believe that Google is attempting to unify its websites behavior with that of its other platforms.
The new box feature that was spotted on Google.com is similar to the manner in which Chromebook and Android users can access apps on their devices. From the physical appearance of the box to the list format of the products and services contained within, the move would make all Google platforms look and feel the same for users regardless of the device they are accessing the web from.
In the past a number of the navigation and user interface elements of Android have made their way onto the Web, which is really no surprise given the popularity of mobile devices. During the fourth quarter of 2012 Apple and Samsung alone sold over 30 million tablets worldwide. Apple iPad shipments alone during that period accounted for one-fourth of all computer sales (including desktops and laptops). Add in the millions of smartphones being sold around the globe each month and it is only a matter of time before mobile devices become THE choice for accessing the web.
While Google is known for tinkering with the look and functionality of its website, the mere presence of a test does not mean that a change is coming. Google is constantly testing different interfaces and algorithmic changes, but not all of them become permanent fixtures.
Other recent tests from Google include the rather bold move of hiding the search box itself. A Chrome user operating on a beta version of the system noted that the only way he could submit a query was to do so in the built-in Omnibox feature on Chrome. Naturally, this astute user took to Google+ to share his finding with the world. Additional tweaks in the past few months have included updating OneBox results to look more like the mobile version, a new slide out navigation bar for Google Mobile, and moving the search options list above results rather than to the side.
Of course, none of this should come as a surprise to those who keep a close eye on Google. The company admitted during a Google Tech Talk back on October 22, 2012 that the company exposes users to as many as a dozen experiments each time they visit the site. The company’s Chief Economist, Hal Varian, said that with each visit to Google users could be in the middle of a dozen or more experiments.
Varian provided that information while answering a question about how companies handle large amounts of data regarding tests and test results. Google has never been shy about letting the public know just how often they work at improving service for web surfers either. The company has previously stated that roughly 500 updates to search are released per year. Additionally, as many as 5,000 experiments are conducted in a year along with upwards of 500 changes to the ad features.