Google recently put the finishing touches to the first major redesign in the brief history of Google+. The makeover makes the social network a bit easier on the eyes for sure and, according to early assessments, enhances its functionality as well. There is a lot going on here in the way of changes and possibly motives as far as Google the corporation goes.
New and Improved Social Experience
With the redesign, the Google+ crew took some time to focus on the elements that made it stand out from the rest of the social crowd. Some of the most notable improvements include:
Better Hangouts – Google+ has made Hangouts, its video chat feature, more prominent than before. In fact, Hangouts now has its own dedicated page. Here users can mange their invitations, monitor popular hangouts from around the network and view pro tips on how to get the most from the feature.
Bigger Media – Google also decided to put a bigger emphasis on media – literally. The photos and videos that appear in the user’s feed are now significantly larger, which should definitely help content stand out more and get eyes to popping. Integration with Picasa and YouTube already made Google+ a powerful multimedia platform, so the emphasis on size is kind of like icing on the cake.
Trending Stuff – Another area to see improvements from the redesign is the site’s trending functionality. Thanks to the Explore feature and its new “What’s Hot” section, users can now easily browse the popular topics that shuffle through the network. Before, you had to manually type in a query to find trending topics.
Perhaps the most interesting aspects of the new and improved Google+ are those directly reminiscent of Facebook. These components include:
Cover Image – Profiles are now graced with the ability to add large banner-size images at the top of the page. Can you say “Timeline Cover Photo”? While somewhat thinner and a bit overshadowed by the user’s profile photo, it is essentially the same feature Facebook introduced a while back.
Right Panel Chat – If you have a Facebook profile, you probably know that the social giant recently moved the chat box from the left to the right side of the page. Well apparently Google felt this was a cool thing to do because the chat activity on Google+ is now positioned to the right of the user’s feed.
Navigation Ribbon – Another new element that appears to be inspired by Facebook’s layout is the Navigation Ribbon. Previously, the user could navigate their way around the site through a combination of the top bar and the panel on the left side of the page. Now everything is on the left in a friendly, customizable format that lets the user arrange the order of the buttons that lead them through the site.
The recent redesign of Google+ appears to be part of a bigger marketing strategy to catapult Google past its rivals, mainly Facebook. Slowly but surely the company is integrating more of its existing products and services into the platform. Of course we don’t have the inside scoop or anything like that, but it looks like Google is on a mission to create a seamless experience that enables it to act as the hub where users can go from search to social, and everything in between. Google+ could be the key piece of the puzzle that connects all the dots.
There has been much discussion about the inability of Google+ to compete with Facebook. But with thriving web properties like YouTube, Gmail and Google Maps in its arsenal, it already has an advantage. The sooner the search giant is able to create that integrated experience it seems to be after, the sooner it may realize that it is Facebook that should be trying to play catch up.