If you are in the US You may have noticed a change on Google Search in the last few hours where the traditional sidebar has been moved to the top of the search results right beneath the search form. The sidebar offered quick links to various specialized searches, like Google Shopping, News or Images, as well as tools that one could use to limit results to a certain time frame or to other factors such as location, reading level or sites with images.
The new layout displays only a handful of links above the search results: Web, Images, Maps, Shopping, More and Search Tools. The more link displays other specialized Google Search engines, like Recipes, Flights, Blogs or Books which can be selected from the menu. The Search Tools button displays a second row beneath the first that you can use to specify time and result based parameters to filter the results.
Below are two screenshots. First the old Google design with the search options and tools on the left in the sidebar adjacent to the search results, and then the new search layout where the sidebar area is white, and the search options and tools are placed on top of the results. You can click on the images to load a larger version of them in the browser.
The new design raises several questions. First, what is going to happen with the sidebar area that is now completely white? You may remember that Google used whitespace previously on other properties when design changes were rolled out in several steps.
Second, will the new layout increase user interaction with the new search bar, and if it does, will it change the way Google users access websites? Or will it have less of an impact and even increase the number of sites Google users visit per search query?
If you have been using time or result based search tools, you may also notice that the new layout requires one additional click to select a time or result based filter. Previously, all it took was two clicks. Now, you need to click on Search Tools, then on Any Time or All Results, and then on the actual item that you want to use.
It was first reported that the change is only affecting US users of Google. I can however confirm that I see the change as well, and reports on Twitter seem to suggest that the rollout is not limited to US users. I'm however not sure if it is limited to google.com, or if localized search properties are also moved to the new layout right now.
Are you seeing the new Google search layout right now with the search tools on top? If so, what is your take on the change in general? Also, any ideas as to what Google will do with the white sidebar area?
We have first seen the change in July of 2012 when it was rolled to a test sample of users visiting the Google website. Reports are now coming in by many users that they see the Google sidebar links on top which suggests that the feature is being rolled out right now.
Update: It is official, Google is changing the layout of the search results page.
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