Google is the top web property in all major global markets. So also is the search experience in Google. “User feedback is very important to us,” says John Boyd, user experience designer at Google. Users have been at the heart of changes to Google Search since we started. Inspired and influenced by user feedback, we make subtle changes to make the look and feel of search faster, more intuitive, and more relevant,” he tells BV Mahalakshmi in a recent interaction. Excerpts:
Search is synonymous with Google. How has the Google Search experience transformed since inception till now?
Users have been at the heart of changes to Google Search since we started. Inspired and influenced by user feedback, we make subtle changes to make the look and feel of search faster, more intuitive, and more relevant.
The contrast between the way search looked in 1998 and in 2012 might be stark, but in fact we made small changes progressively over the years: whether it be on our logo, font, or the size of the search bar, you can see how Google’s homepage has become cleaner and simpler. Of course, powerful interactive features have also been added beyond the homepage to make search even more useful. For instance, you can search by voice, or by image—just drag and drop a picture into the search bar. You can also find out live sports scores by typing in the name of your favourite team, or find out answers to your questions such as “Height of the Empire State Building.”
Extensive user feedback and relentless rounds of user experience lab testing have helped us implement many of these changes. We also test new features among a small percentage of live users as they use Google normally. In the last year alone, we made over 530 changes and ran over 58,000 experiments, all to see how these changes would affect real users. Although our look has been updated through the years, our utmost principle has remained the same: to give people a fast, intuitive, and useful search experience.
What is your design philosophy for Web search and how are you working to make it more simpler and faster?
Google’s design philosophy is to combine power with simplicity. We believe search should give you what you are looking for as quickly as possible, so we gather lots of metrics and data to make improvements in speed, visual design, accuracy—all to ensure you’ll have