06
Mar
google logo

Tomorrow, Facebook is expected to announce some major changes to its News Feed. This has been a long time in coming and many people agree that, compared to the growing competition amongst modern social networks, the News Feed is one of the oldest, stalest, and ugliest presentations of information around. Okay, maybe it's not that bad, but it could use a refresher, so we're all eagerly awaiting the chang-Oh hey look new Google+ features!

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Without warning, Google launched a massive change to profiles today that beautifies the heck out of personal and business pages alike. The most noticeable change is users now have a gargantuan cover photo. Huge. Monstrous. Colossal. Humongous. Enormous. I'm running out of adjectives to describe this. The slot is so big that when you go to a profile, the page will automatically scroll down a bit to see content. Otherwise you would see nothing but one big photo.

This is likely to be a rough transition for some as, well, it's immense. Still, Google+ has been trying (rather successfully, I might add), to position itself as photographer-friendly. While you'll still see some complete garbage come through What's Hot, it's not uncommon for some brilliant imagery to show up. The lightboxed interface for photos didn't hurt, either. This is just one more step towards catering to photogs. Oh, and there's one other audience that this new change is courting:

gifgplus

GIF lovers. Yes, that's right, your titanic cover photo can be an animated GIF. Google+ has always supported the moving images in posts (but not comments) before. This is just the icing on the giant cake.

The cover photo isn't even the biggest change, though! Well, okay, it's the biggest, but we've had sort-of cover photos before. Now they're just larger. The rest of the profiles, though, have been dramatically overhauled. Here, for example, is a look at what the main posts feed looked like before and after:

oldprofile1

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The new navbar has been (you guessed it) Holo-fied. Instead of going for the old depressed button style of navigation, the primary indicator of where you are is a single underline highlight. Additionally, the "View profile as:" selector is much more pronounced. Google put it on the same line as the rest of the navigation elements and made the mode you're in bright blue. With social networks making it difficult to keep track of who can see what, the folks at Mountain View are very clearly hoping to court the privacy-minded by placing as many controls as possible in the user's hands.

That might be enough for anyone's palette. Indeed, if you're not keen to explore that much, it might seem like all Google did was add cover photos, touch up the navbar and center posts. Check out the before and after on the About tab, though:

oldprofile2

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Okay. That's gorgeous. The Google+ team has clearly taken some design cues from Android. The cards interface has been adopted for the separate sections to make the page much more visually appealing. Oh, and you'll also notice a few contact methods to the right-hand side. Some of these options have been available (and are, as always, user configurable), but it's now much easier to see what methods are available for reaching a person.

Then there's the issue of filling out a profile. Most often on social networks, the process of entering the information that's most necessary is a pain. You get a page that's cluttered with boxes and you just kind of fumble around looking for the ones you like. Well, Google updated that whole process. Not only is editing individual cards a nicer experience, but they're all tied together in a single, guided box that seem to be screaming "complete all of us!"

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Each one of those bubbles at the top corresponds to a card you can fill out. Work, education, places, even the new Apps section. Which, by the way, raises a bit of a security concern. The new Apps card is shown by default on your profile. This will, we assume, show anything you've logged in to with the new Google+ sign-in. Hopefully there will be ways to ensure certain apps don't appear (we're sure that most folks won't want to broadcast that they tried out the next Bang With Friends or whatever), but if you're concerned about it, you can turn this card off entirely.

What's most striking about the new facelift is how much even bland things look wonderful. Check out the Reviews tab:

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I almost never write reviews of places (as you can tell by my four entries in two years), but when I pull up this section and see my old work highlighted here, it actually makes me want to do more. Which is kind of the point. The better a social network looks and feels, the more people will want to use it.

Google+ has been growing into its own lately as a service and, despite the naysayers, there are tens of millions of people on it (a reported 135 million active users in just the stream in December). Google wants to be the center of your digital life and this move today is, without a doubt, a step in that direction. It's not a mere revamp for revamp's sake, or carelessly tossing in a giant cover photo. The goal here is to take every detail you want to share with the world, make it beautiful and encourage you to share more.

The real question is how long before this cards interface comes to Google+ posts. They're the only part of the new profile that isn't in card form and, frankly, when looking at the "Share what's new..." speech bubble with its subtle gradients, instead of the smooth lines of virtually everything else, it just doesn't feel right. It's old-hat and out of place. In fact, the entire feed feels slightly less pretty after seeing the new profiles.

Ironically, this profile overhaul launch just a day before Facebook introduces a new News Feed has made me long for an update to Google's own feed. Not to say it's bad, by any means. In fact, I've loved how G+ looks. But I'm suddenly aware of how much better it could be.

Eric Ravenscraft
Eric is a snarky technophile with a taste for the unusual. When he's not obsessing about Android, you can usually find him obsessing about movies, psychology, or the perfect energy drink. Eric weaves his own special blend of snark, satire, and comedy into all his articles.

  • Edward Smith

    Just get rid of the column on the right and it will be perfect.

    • akshay7394

      I'm reasonably certain the right side is going to be where all their knowledge graph related stuff will go.

      also, their social happenings. I.e: John is listening to this artist, etc.

      • didibus

        It's weird because they centered the posts on the Profile, so you would think they are planning to center everything

        • akshay7394

          Nah not really, look at how Facebook's redesigned the news feed? That's how g+ will look once they use the right side as well.

  • Edward Smith

    Always thought that Google+ wed design and mobile design far surpass Facebook, people are just too committed to Facebook to move, people are lazy.

    • RitishOemraw

      I agree. I just wish I could see my friends updates in G+. That is the only reason I still go to FB although with the addition of the communities on G+ I have been spending way more time on G+ than on Fb....hope that trend keeps up.

      • AGWednesday

        There are a few Chrome and Firefox extensions that let you view your friends' Facebook and Twitter updates in your Google+ stream and even share your G+ updates directly to the other social networks.

        YMMV.

        • RitishOemraw

          Yeh I don't need it that desperately. I can just peruse through my humble Fb newsfeed from time to time....most of it isn't that interesting anyway. :P

          Thanks anyway!

    • http://insight.pinkonbrown.org/ Dr P Fenderson

      Oh man! If only you saw the new Facebook design that is rolling out soon. Looks like their devs have been spending too much time on G+.

  • m4s
  • http://kennydude.me/ Joe Simpson

    I like this what they're doing. If they can unify the Google UX across platforms that would be awesome

    • PhillipCun

      i think that's what they're trying to do. their apps + desktop website all have similar designs.... its pretty crazy

  • http://twitter.com/carlosmg2 Cαяłøs

    The photo albums have also been revamped :)

  • What about timeline in g+?

    What about timeline in g+?

  • Кристијан Ристовски

    #HOLOYOLO is coming to the web too.

  • Anonymous

    This new UI is too big.. apparently google finds fancy stuff more important then the content itself.

    • adi19956

      I disagree. Content is very important, but would you want a full page of just text? Of course not. As Eric said it makes it look better, and I personally find content easy to read and easy to find. Did I mention it looks amazing?

      • didibus

        But damn that profile pic is big lol. Non of my pictures are of high enough quality. Even the ones provided by Google appear grainy.

  • mesmorino

    It won't matter how much the photos have been revamped if they're still the same insane mess they are. They need to have a simple section called photos, or photo albums... where you can put photos! not some place where picasa has a leg in, and the g+ app just dumps whatever it has wherever it likes and there's some useless scrapbook thing (is it an album? is it a section? what exactly is it?!) and then there's "photos from posts" which isn't exactly an album, and isn't exactly a section, it's just literally your photos from posts, and when you upload from picasa (the program), it's a coin toss as to whether it'll put the picture in your picasa web album, or your g+ "album" or god forbid, BOTH, and whether both will share the same privacy settings, or if it only uploads to one place, god only knows if it'll be visible from every other place.

    Fucking google you know. At least they stopped trying to get me to use my real name on Youtube. It was a highly hilarious few weeks while they worked through that epic brain fart. I mean, really.

    "I want to use my real name on Youtube", said no one in the entire history of Youtube, ever.

    • http://petercast.net Peterson Silva

      I wanted to use my real name on Youtube. I really did. I said that. And now I can.

      I really don't know what was your rage about.

      • mesmorino

        Good for you man! Really, I'm happy for you, and I'm not being sarcastic either- A service you wanted was implemented, that's pretty cool!

        For the rest of us though, not so cool. My rage was mostly because a) I like bitching about google and all the stupid things they do (especially when there are better things they could be doing, like sorting out all the messes they've created with messaging and g+), and also because the prompt was INCESSANT. It wouldn't have been anything to fret about had it been one simple prompt: "Do you want to use your real name on Youtube? Yes or No" And I would have clicked no, and that would have been the end of that

        But noooooo, someone at google must have taken a crash course in how to annoy your users because for about a week, EVERY SINGLE TIME I went to youtube it asked me to use my real name. Every time, going so far as to interrupt videos that were already playing. After that week it only bugged me when I wanted to comment, and eventually I just stopped going to youtube on my computer, just on my phone.

        • http://petercast.net Peterson Silva

          Oh. Well, yeah, that's not good =(

        • GraveUypo

          it has only asked me once and it didn't really matter anyways because my "name" on g+ is my nickname anyways.

    • John O’Connor

      ok, I will agree with you on the bs that is picasa/g+ albums/photos and wherever the hell your pics may or may not end up... as for the "real name" "thing" i think this has helped out substantially when it comes to subpar online interactions (and to some extent fake/troll/bs profiles) as most people are far less likely to interact in the most obnoxious/ludicrous/disrespectful/rude/racist/etc ways if it is attached to their name. While there is nothing wrong with being anonymous there is no requirement for you to cheapen or degrade the user/internet experience for others under such guise.

      If you don't like it, don't use it

      #SaidSomebodyEveryWeekInResponeToTinFoilHatWearersEverwhere

      • mesmorino

        I agree with everything you said, except you seem to be assuming that I don't like their stupid idea out of a preference for anonymity. That's not it at all.

        I simply prefer not to use my real name on youtube. Attempting to force me to only elicits a violent reaction towards the opposite result, there is no way on this earth I'm going to let some poxy company bully me into playing by their rules, not as long as I have a viable option.

      • Xyzzy

        Actually, the idea that real names make a difference was just a theory someone came up with based on a study about how people behave IRL; the media just presented it as fact. People that are racist, homophobic, etc. enough to air their views are typically *proud* of them, and those prone to bullying/harassing others virtually never see anything wrong with their behavior.

        The people that are scared off by RL name policies aren't the trolls or bullies, it's regular people that don't want employers snooping, have a disability/orientation/etc. they don't want folks aware of IRL, or are stalked online by someone that had abused them...things like that.

        • John O’Connor

          That is a very interesting way of looking at things, which I will not discount but for some reason it vaguely reminds me of the concept of outlawing guns being a means that only allows outlaws to have them.

  • Dwayne McDougle

    The Apps aspect has a few things, you can turn each one off individually, show only to friends etc etc....or turn the whole card off. They did a pretty good job with that so its not a just on or off feature

  • Freak4Dell

    I was thinking the same thing about the posts. That needs to be cardified, as well as the newsfeed part. The side navigation bar needs to be revamped, too, since it no longer flows with the profile page. This is certainly beautiful, though. I wonder if this means Google is going to start issuing this design language for all their services. They did kind of holo all the things over the past year or so, but everything still sort of kept its own UI. The cards change the game completely.

    • didibus

      Cards are pretty awesome. They mainly organize the content is such a nice unified way, it makes it a lot easier to read and understand.

  • http://zmyaro.com/ Gamer_Z.

    This looks good apart from the two-column layout in the Reviews tab. If it were a grid layout, that would be fine, but the staggered posts remind me of Facebook's Timeline view and how difficult to follow it can be.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

      Ironically, I like it in this context but hate it on Facebook. I think that a time-sensitive context is a place that the two-column layout doesn't work because it makes it difficult to figure out which one came before what, but the Reviews tab, I don't really need to view them in any particular order. Same with About page. Also, Google Now on tablets in landscape mode does this same thing and I think in all those contexts, it works. It's only when I try to figure out which order the entries are supposed to go in that it becomes aggravating.

  • Samuel Hart

    Whoa, that look DAMN good!

  • John O’Connor

    well sh@##%$# now i need to place my companies animated gif in my g+ apps account

    • John O’Connor

      ok... just an fyi... need a minimum picture size of 480 x 250 (at least for animated gifs). damn now I must find my original psd files since the ones i am looking for were created several years back (2007? 2009?) and the ani gifs are ~ 800 x 201px.... it was a different time back then and we were all more concerned about how long it takes for info to load for the target audience therefore trying to keep down the overal filesize

  • mesmorino

    actually, while we're here what's with that stupid share button in the reviews tab? google needs to start being fucking consistent, i'm tired of this bullshit already. the ANDROID share button is the stylised nuclear fission image. all over the place, right up to and INCLUDING the google + app! then we get to the website and it all goes to shit.

    honestly, i wonder sometimes what goes on with them, i really do. but only sometimes. It's absolutely NO surprise that android is so fragmented, it's a way of being for google. I mean, for pictures, you have google +, picasa, picasa web albums, blogger, and whatever else they've got cooked up. Then for messaging you have google voice, google talk, messenger, AND google + itself.

    I would just like consolidation and consistency, i mean how are you going to tell developers what share button to use when you're not actually sure yourself? Thank GOD we don't have more than one gmail, it was bad enough when they were still doing that nonsense with googlemail.com, googlemail.co.uk, gmail.com AND gmail.co.uk.

    • Freak4Dell

      While your point is perfectly valid, the GMail/GoogleMail issue was due to legal reasons. Aside from legal reasons, companies often purchase a bunch of similar domains so they can redirect to the correct one, instead of letting some domain poacher have the similar domain and use it for money or malicious purposes.

      • John O’Connor

        That is certainly a common practice in any domain holding business. The process of removing the poachers is a much more streamlined process if you have a valid registered trademark.

  • Yuppieki

    It would be somewhat awesome if you upload a panoramic Photo Sphere to your cover image. GIF and a flat image is so oldschool.

  • DeadSOL

    My Google+ page is still the same old one.

    EDIT: Oh, it has changed! What a beauty! :D

  • Xyzzy

    Interesting, but I'd like it more if we could opt to have a nice small cover image when not viewing an actual album, so we're not stuck wasting time scrolling past it if we don't want our browser window vertically maximized.

  • http://about.me/peSHIr Jarno Peschier

    So they stole "large cover photo" idea from Twitter (think I saw it there first, could have been Facebook, with one copying the other) and consolidated their overal web style a bit? Does not sound Earth-moving at all. Google still not really "get" social, but it's desperate for it (perfect for those ads...) so they are still imitating what seems to work for other players. I understand why this wasn't announced in a big way. ;-)

  • didibus

    No matter how many adjectives you used to describe it, I was not ready for just how big it really is.

  • http://www.ronvanpeursem.com/ Ron VanPeursem

    Yeah, Eric, "Titanic" is just the right word for it. I also like "dominating" and "overpowering". Super-sized isn't quite big enough to convey the visual assault. Anyway, I'm trying to get people to vote (for or against) the new google plus cover photo size on my blog, here: http://ronvanpeursem.com/2013/03/vote-on-the-google-plus-cover-photo-size/