Google home page: we’re not bored, let’s fade away

In October Google began experimenting with a new look – a minimalistic approach designed to that give the user what they wanted without distraction. It was dubbed Google Fade, and it works by only displaying the Google search bar, the Google Search button and the I’m Feeling Lucky button until the user moves their mouse. At that point, a reverse fade brings everything into view.

Now you see them.

And now you don’t.

 

To begin with, Google trialled 10 different variations of the ‘fade’ with a small number of users. Each one was met with a great deal of scepticism, and many users questioned why Google would bother experimenting with such a seemingly pointless feature.
 
Marissa Mayer, Google Vice President of Search Product and User Experience, had the answer:
 
All in all, we ran approximately 10 variants of the fade-in. Some of the experiments hindered the user experience: for example, the variants of the homepage that hid the search buttons until after the fade performed the worst in terms of user happiness metrics… However, in the end, the variant of the homepage we are launching today was positive or neutral on all key metrics, except one: time to first action. At first, this worried us a bit… Then, we realized: we want users to notice this change… and it does take time to notice something (though in this case, only milliseconds!). Our goal then became to understand whether or not over time the users began to use the homepage even more efficiently than the control group and, sure enough, that was the trend we observed.
 
Since it was launched worldwide on 3rd December, there has been a user backlash regarding the new design. On the official Google help forums, many threads are filled with complaints. 
 
Some threatening:
 
“Leave the Homepage alone, or else I’ll find another search engine to use…..”
 
“Worst Google idea ever. I am about to go find a new browser for my home page. They created the perfect solution to a non-existent problem.”
 
Some frustrated:
 
“Seriously. I couldnt even beleive [sic] it myself, I thought I was hallucinating!!! Then finally I arrived here, to find out fellow googlers are also experiencing the same atrocious disaster. It is extremely slowing me down as I am a Sr. Network Engineer and have multiple windows open at all times, and opening new ones all day long. My homepage being Google, is now taking an extra couple seconds to come-up, and when you are working with seconds of time, that can be DEVASTATING.”
 
And some just downright funny:
 
“Stop experimenting with the stupid "fade" already. It isn’t better and it isn’t necessary. Stop making changes just for the sake of making changes. A search engine isn’t supposed to be a video game. The only folks I can imagine thinking this is ‘cool’ are teenagers and twenty-somethings with the attention span of a housefly.”
 
Personally I don’t see what the fuss is about. It looks nice, and I know how to find the little ‘Mail’ icon without any fuss. However, I am intrigued to see this fade effect tie in with the upcoming Google design, as this change would then be a much more radical transformation from the Google we know and love.
 
The future?