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Google+ Redesign: The Community Reacts

Some of us at aNewDomain.net have been on Google+ or even were testing it before its August 2011 launch. Today Google+ chief +Vic Gundotra announced on Google’s Blogspot page the overhaul. For regular Google+ users, it’s a pretty dramatic change — but it does, in fact, differentiate Google+ from Facebook in a major way.

The biggest change in the Google+ redesign is the new navigation ribbon. It’s on the left. You can drag and move these icons around.

There is also a ton of white space — and more controversy than you could ever imagine is around that. Google, always spare in its designs, has gone even more simplistic here. It says it will fill the white space with what it calls “team content.” In the meantime, click here to learn how to expand your Google+ for use with large screens and get rid of some of the white space.

Readers had a lot of reaction in this regard. The terms #toomuchwhitespace and #Whitespace have been trending on Twitter all day at this writing.

+George Greene points out that this fix widens out the main feed but that his “View All Notifications” (view) “is still not wide … this is bad for people with eye problems.

+Matija Cesar concurs and complains about “too much white space on the right.”

Even though +Shawn Goff doesn’t mind the white space, “I’d prefer if the white space were actually a pastel… the bright white hurts my eyes and makes it hard for me to look at the screen. I’ll have migraines until October, of course, here in the Florida summer.”

+Shah Auckburaully, a tech exec in London, told us: “The icons need a new look – they look so 2005! And the grey needs a contrast adjustment. So pale like a vampire! Aside from those, clutter is the new cool it seems.

“The jury is still out,” says +Rich Fisher, a designer in Columbus, Ohio. “Despite promises from (Google) that ‘something new’ will be in the dreaded whitespace and it ‘won’t be ads,’ I think everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop. The Stream does seem to be more responsive, though.”

+Slobodan Gaborovi told us he hopes that “the posts will be moved to the right to be in the central part of the monitor : ) ”

+Dan Phillips is fairly happy with the design. “I can see trending items and recommended users better. Also I can switch circles a little easier. And over to the right there looks like prime ad real estate. It’s cleaner than Facebook,” Dan tells us, but adds that he is hearing that the Chat capability doesn’t work as well. We’ll be checking into that. He thinks the design is really more tablet-targeted.

+Jonathan Black said, “comments text needs to be a bit darker.”

+William Stodden thinks the redesign was “entirely unnecessary.” In general, he dislikes updates unless they are fixing problems.
“Same goes for videogames. Tropico 2 is way funner than Tropico 4, which is essentially the same concept but with what some would say were better graphics. Updates are only for the people who blow tons of money on high end computers, but they end up dragging the rest of us along to a place we don’t really need to go, and most of us wouldn’t go anyway if we had the choice.

“In the process it obsoletes otherwise perfectly good technology and forces us all to upgrade our computers eventually or withdraw, which isn’t really an option for most who use technology these days.”

+Caspar Gehrmeyer also commented on the Comments text darkness but “other than i like it … it is clean and simple

+Stephen Berton adds: Yesterday my phone got (Android 4.X Ice Cream Sandwich) ICS. Today, Google+ gets an upgrade. That’s a lot to absorb. (Google) could definitely darken up the grey. And having my Contacts on the right-hand side of the screen makes me think Facebook. And that’s not a compliment. (It will) be interesting to see what they do with the white space.

Louisville, Kentucky tech pro +Mark Monyhan points out there is a way to avoid the “snow blindness.” Google has said it plans to fill the white space with “team content.” In the meantime, he says, try this.

Not everyone likes change. Some are adverse. +George Greene tells us “this isn’t a good change. There was nothing wrong with the page before. Now it like all over place and hard to follow.”

“The new design has some real issues,” says +Ron Ruble.  ” We need the ability to customize the layout a bit. All of the items on the right side are just wasted screen real estate for me. It would not be that hard to fix, but the main issue is this: Significantly reduces the space for the real content. Very bad decision to spring this on people without warning. Google’s been making bad decisions lately; it’s not to late to learn from their mistakes, but they need to start responding soon to avoid more negative press and feedback.”

Our senior editor in Los Angeles, +Larry Press, doesn’t like the redesign one bit. “I don’t like it. I have been using G+ mainly as something between Twitter and a blog. Half the screen width is now consumed with clutter that is trying to get me to have chats, hangouts (and) add people to my circles. That squeezes the space to create and edit posts. I just tried to add two pictures to a post, and it did not re-size them but cropped and ran them together. It made the two images appear to be one incoherent image. I had to delete one of them.

“I had seen G+ as a place to have some interesting conversations, but it seems (Google wants) to turn it into a place where we all have huge social graphs. Google needs to forget about Facebook and build something unique. I would have much preferred if they had left the UI alone and spent a little time improving the post editor. Hey, (Google) owns Blogger — Blogger has a far superior post editor. Why not integrate that?”

But our senior editor in New York, +Todd Townsend, likes the new look. “None of the changes are a step backwards,” he said. “The customization on the left is key. The whole thing looks much more “modern.”

Our senior editor in North Carolina, +Christopher Poirier, agreed with Todd and added: “The new addition of the left hand menu is great. (It) breaks up content and provides a new way to surf information. I’m sure we’ll go through some pains in the next few days, but it looks like Hangouts really came out ahead on this. I’m still absorbing my overall thoughts and will compile some screenshots of new features for everyone.”

Our +Ant Pruitt is on the fence, Google+ design-wise. “I didn’t have much of a problem with the original UI, but this one isn’t bad at all. Will just take some time to get used to — as usual,” he said.  There is one change, however,  he didn’t care for: the cluttered tiles that show up around a popular hangout.

+Dave Lockwood, who hails from +Gina Smith‘s hometown of Ormond Beach, FL, said: “So far I actually kind of like the new interface. Yeah, it needs a little bit of optimization. However, compare it to something like Facebook where I end up getting a double helping of the posts + ticker. It’s horrible. Give a week or two and (Google) will have it all tweaked to what everyone is complaining about. Now, if only Google would really get some awesome developer APIs rolling out…..”

Our columnist +Paul Bonner expressed distaste: “Well the best thing you can say about it is that it looks less like a pure copy of Facebook (than it did pre redesign). But the harder Google tries with UI design, the more apparent it is how little the decisions makers there understand it. The stream is ridiculously cluttered, while somehow managing to leave about 40 percent of the available real estate completely blank on a widescreen monitor. Blech.”

From +Robert Knight: “I miss being able to see a larger number of posts at once. Now I have to scroll more. I don’t like that. It’s going to take some getting use to. I do like that it seems easier to do a Hangout now and to see who in your circles might be available. Just remember an open browser does not mean someone is in the chair.”

Looking forward to +Christopher Poirier’s gallery tour of the new Google+ look and its Pages feature.

Let us know what you think — if you’d like us to link back to your Google+ page or mention your city and place of work, please include that information in the comments field below.

Updating.

  • Ant Pruitt

    I didn’t have much of a problem with the original UI, but this one isn’t bad at all. Will just take some time to get used to as usual.

    -RAP, II

  • http://som.csudh.edu/fac/lpress/ Larry Press

    I don’t like it. I have been using G+ mainly as something between Twitter and a blog. Half the screen width is now consumed with clutter that is trying to get me to have chats, hangouts, add people to my circles, etc.

    That squeezes the space to create and edit posts. I just tried to add two pictures to a post, and it did not re-size them, but cropped and ran them together. It made the two images appear to be one incoherent image. I had to delete one of them.

    I had seen G+ as a place to have some interesting conversations, but it seems they want to turn it into a place where we all have huge “social graphs.” They need to forget about Facebook and build something unique.

    I would have much preferred if they had left the UI alone and spent a little time improving the post editor. Hey, they own Blogger — Blogger has a far superior post editor. Why not integrate that?

  • http://www.toddtownsend.com Todd Townsend

    None of the changes are a step backwards. The customization on the left is key. The whole thing looks much more “modern”.

  • Christopher Poirier

    The new additions on the left hand “menu” is great. it breaks up content and provides a new way to “surf” information. I’m sure we’ll go through some pains in the next few days, but it looks like Hangouts really came out ahead on this. Still absorbing my overall thoughts and will compile some screen shots of new features for everyone.

  • Christopher Poirier

    Okay I found another thing that is pretty neat: Pages. If you manage multiple Google+ pages, this one tab lays them all out for you to select, manage, etc.

  • http://aNewDomain.net Gina Smith

    That is a cool feature, chris! p.s. we are adding the minecraft show to anewdomain.net!

  • Tim Wechy

    I don’t like it much, but that is probably because it seems like such a big change. My main gripes are not about the #whitespace, but is about the amount of junk that has been dumped on the right-hand half of the page and the color scheme.

    I want the stream to be most prominent on the page; for it to take up most space because this is where I chat and interact most and everything else to be optional or at least a click away.

    The chat and interaction are what makes me want to be here, but I can barely make out “comments” because the text/background colors do not contrast enough!!!

  • http://dispersedthoughts.wordpress.com/ Robert Knight

    I miss being able to see a larger number of posts at once. Now I have to scroll more. I don’t like that. It’s going to take some getting use to.

    I do like that it seems easier to do a hangout now and to see who in your circles may be available. Just remember an open browser does not mean someone is in the chair.

  • Paul Bonner

    Well the best thing you can say about it is that it looks less like a pure copy of Facebook. But the harder Google tries with UI design, the more apparent it is how little the decisions makers there understand it. The stream is ridiculously cluttered, while somehow managing to leave about 40% of the available real estate completely blank on a widescreen monitor.

    Blech.

  • http://newhaberdasher.com W. Doc Stodden

    Having been quoted in the article, let me add that Minecraft also didn’t need to be updated… Adding another 128 blocks on top of the existing 128 block game was senseless, especially since the game doesn’t actually create anything there and it is just open space in case some sick bastard wants to double the height of his towers. In the meanwhile, it messed up the mapping programs we were using, slowed our game play to like 2-4 FPS WITH Optifine and caused us to have to rebuild our world in the new style. The game was fine before, but now it is a real drag on an otherwise fine computer.

    I know that doesn’t have much to do with the redesign of G+, but that in and of itself is merely a symptom of a much larger problem in tech development today. If it isn’t broken don’t fix it just because a few people with supercomputers that they replace every three months suggest it.

  • Dan Phillips

    Everyone has an issue with the whitespace but if you lower you screen resolution, it goes away. I think maybe this redesign was done with tablets in mind.

    • Paul Bonner

      +Dan Phillips :I think maybe this redesign was done with tablets in mind.

      A design done with tablets in mind should only be delivered to tablets. Delivering the same page to every client browser is a straight path to lowest-common-denominator design. Anybody who’s serious about delivering a quality web product should know better.

      If the guys making decisions at Google these days could tear their eyes off of Facebook and Apple for one second, they might be able to design a decent product again. Right now they’re making bad decisions for bad reasons, and the longer that goes on the more it suggests to me that they are terrified. Even Microsoft looks less like a deer-in-the-headlights than Google these days.

    • http://www.anewdomain.net Christopher Poirier

      There are a few chrome extensions out there that fix the white space issue for those using high res displays.

      https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/home just search white space

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  • http://som.csudh.edu/fac/lpress/ Larry Press

    Here is a more detailed explanation of why I don’t like it:

    https://plus.google.com/114528586908817727732/posts/3Y8uYJdHAoR

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