NEW YORK – Today the world celebrates a product that has impacted the lives of people across the globe and has changed the face of the Internet. Sept. 27, 2014, is Google’s official birthday and you are all invited to the party!
Today, the tech titan has grown to include a myriad of products, ranging from a mobile OS and hardware to productivity apps and self-driving cars. Search, however, is still king. What changes have emerged to help Google keep its edge? Being the curious website optimizers we are, we thought we’d take a look and share a few pieces of Google’s history.
1998—Google’s first homepage
Note the three separate CTAs, both search and email signup fields, and a handful of hyperlinked pages in the mix as well. A visitor to this version of Google.com could have taken seven different actions with this page, or left it entirely because of confusion or disinterest.
A much clearer homepage takes center stage. The calls to action have been pared down, and many of the extraneous links have been removed. According to a statement in Google’s newsletter: “Now the front page is cleaner and less cluttered, in line with our philosophy that as little as possible should get in the way of letting you search.”
2003—A Tabbed Approach
As Google introduced new product offerings like Image Search, Groups, and News, they chose to organize the new products in tabs above the search bar, keeping “Web” as the default choice.
Google begins to offer a different experience to users who use the search page while logged in to their other products, such as Gmail.
2009—A Blank Slate*
Sometimes, a totally out of the box approach can help to break through a pattern of iterating that only results in minimal improvements. In this approach to a homepage redesign, Google introduced a vanishing navigation bar that appeared when a user moved a mouse over the page. The effect is very dramatic, but is it useful?
*This year also marked the departure of Doug Bowman, Google’s Visual Design Lead, over what we’ll call “creative differences.” 41 shades of blue, anyone?
With the launch of Google Instant, we pause in memoriam of the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button. Google introduced “Instant” search in the fall of 2010, which would take searchers directly to their results pages as they began to type a query. The effect was (and still is) striking, but “I’m Feeling Lucky” was an unfortunate casualty of the update.
(You can still access an “I’m Feeling Lucky” option in the drop-down of suggested terms in an instant search.)
2011—You’ve Been +Added
In the summer of 2011, Google launched its social network, Google Plus. As part of its massive push to drive signups to the site, the Google.com page bore a not-so-subtle arrow to Plus in the navigation bar on the homepage. Was this advertisement worth it? We’d say the jury is still out on that one.
After more than fifteen years of development, we arrive at a Google.com page that looks very similar to the ones that came before it. However, we can see that each element on the page was carefully introduced, subtracted, added, or repositioned before arriving at its current placement.