In recent weeks it has become apparent that Google has instituted a variety of changes in its results pages. What were initially limited to a small selection of pages has gone widespread across all SERPs. The changes include slightly lighter text, larger headlines, and an adjustment in font size. These changes have not been well received by users who feel that the design is actually a throwback to older designs rather than a step ahead.
Google announced that the design changes were intended to make search results cleaner and more readable. There is no doubt that Google is preparing for a major shift in consumer behavior as more users employ smart phones and tablets to access the internet and specifically Google. The new changes are intended to be more mobile friendly with ad labels found on mobile results pages being introduced on desktop SERPs. Google has also stated that it intends to standardize its pages across all devices, with the latest changes meant to transfer appearances between them.
These changes include a variety of minor modifications which in themselves are not jarring, but taken as a whole does leave users wanting. Along with bigger titles, more even line spacing, and wider fonts, Google has removed underlines from titles and the yellow background for Adwords ads has been removed. These ads are now merely marked with a yellow “Ads” caption next to the URL which is now in green. The ads section and organic search results are now separated by an underline.
One of the most harshly criticized changes is the shift to a lighter font. The general consensus is that this has made the search results more difficult to read, in spite of the larger font size. In the opinion of many reviewers, Google has sacrificed functionality on desktops in favor of a mobile inspired design. In response, Google has stated that it believes the changes actually IMPROVE readability.
For many businesses, the most disturbing change Google has implemented is the length of titles. While previously Google provided space for up to 70 characters, it has shortened it to 59 or 60. This will require an enormous amount of man hours throughout the online community to adjust SEO optimized titles to fit in the truncated space.
These changes have not produced much appreciation from users. In response to the outdated appearance, many users were more than surprised. Quite a few of Google’s users were shocked and clicked away believing that they had been misdirected to a Google spoof. Many of Google’s faithful have had such negative reactions that they have chosen to use other search engines.
With such widespread repudiation of the new design, it would be hoped that Google would at least alter some of its changes. Realistically, however, that is unlikely. Google has a poor track record of listening to criticism and pulling back on changes it has already introduced. If you are the world’s most important search engine, it can afford to ignore user feedback…at least, for now.