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New Google Interface Forgets Scholar

Tuesday, Google announced a new interface for its front page and search results, removing the black bar at the top with links to other databases and the options gear and moving those choices to a mouse-over, drop-down list that from the Google logo. I still do not see the change on any of my computers at home or on campus, but thanks to a trick posted on the Google Operating System blog, you can make the new interface appear by setting options in a cookie. It sounds like the intent is to make this a common interface across all Google properties. As Google says in the announcement, their goal is "making navigation and sharing super simple for people." (Note the addition of "sharing" which means that Google+ links and notes will be more prominent).

So I tried the new interface and compared it to the old. How well does it work for searchers? The old black bar at the top and its previous incarnations have made it easy for me to switch searches from one Google database to another. The new bar sort of works that way, but it has added several new links (none of which I use often) and removed several others (including those that I do). What has changed?

Some wording is different: "Web" is now "Search" and "Gmail" is just "Mail." But several databases have been removed:

  • Blogs
  • Scholar
  • Groups
  • Sites

The gear icon in the upper right hand corner of the home page that links to Search Settings, Advanced Search, and Language Tools is also gone from the new home page design. The Options gear shows up once you do a search. I don't mind not having Sites, since I don't use that, but switching a web search to a search in the Scholar, Blog, or Groups databases is a royal pain. Especially as an academic searcher, the loss of Scholar is significant. The Blogs database is available on the left if you expand the databases, but neither Scholar nor Groups is available there. See the screencast below for a comparison of old and new.

Exploring this change made me realized that Google really offers two places to search images and two places to search video. You can transfer your search from the Image database to "Photos" which gives you the results from Picasa Web Albums without requiring a log in. Note how the Video in the new interface has been moved to the end of the list. Again, you can transfer a search from the Video database to YouTube (for only YouTube videos and different ranking), but you cannot yet transfer from YouTube to the larger Google Video database.

And what's up with the News link? Why does that not transfer the search terms but instead just go to the Google News home page? Clicking the News link in the left margin works properly. Oh well, since I'm using a hack to get the new interface, perhaps these are all bugs that Google will fix before it is fully rolled out. Or so I hope.

By Greg R. Notess. Dated Dec 2, 2011 in Google

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