Google built its reputation on its streamlined, minimalist home page and search results, but it may change that design to add more information soon. A small number of people will randomly begin to see “Google Search Options” displayed on the left of the search results as Google runs tests to expose useful features and make results more predictable. Here’s an article with details about the tests and comments by Google’s design diva Marissa Mayer.
If you do a search today on Google, the search results are laid out this way.
Across the top are links that narrow the search to different categories – images, videos, maps, and more.
Just above the results is a “Show options” link. When you click it, a pane appears on the left with various ways to refine the search. Some but not all of the options are repeated from the top, although they do not always lead to identical results. In this case, links for video and news are repeated on the left, but not images or maps.
At the moment, the search options that appear when you click “Show options” are inconsistent. In any case, I don’t have statistics but in my experience people rarely use either the links at the top or the search options.
The redesign would expose the pane on the left on all search results, and change the look to make it more friendly and consistent. This is the current design being tested for search results.
The tabs on the left – Everything, Images, News, etc. – are more prominent and presumably would stay the same for all searches. The choices below the tabs would change to useful things for particular searches – a search for videos would let you choose the length of the video or the date, for example.
Google does not make changes to its pages lightly but it makes sense to give people easy access to more options in our increasingly Web-savvy world. It’s also probably not a coincidence that Microsoft’s competing search engine Bing has used a three-pane design with options on the left since its introduction in May.