New Delhi: On Thursday, the $23 billion (Rs1.04 trillion) technology company Google Inc. launched a revamped version of its search engine that it says provides more relevant results, as well as a new version of its logo in 37 countries. Nundu Janakiram, Google’s 24-year-old product manager for Web search, spoke to Mint from the company’s Mountain View, California, headquarters about the change and the thought behind it. “The new version is based on one of the biggest user interface experiments in the history of Google,” he said. Edited excerpts:
Can you briefly take us through the new version of Google Search?
It was in 2006 that we introduced left hand panel and in 2007 we launched the unified search option, which basically rolls up everything—blogs, books, images—together into search. Then in May 2009, we introduced the search option which was a comprehensive way to slice and dice information.
New designs: (from left) A file photo of Nundu Janakiram and Jon Wiley, senior user experience designer of Google, sharing a light?moment at the firm’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. Bryce Duffy/Bloomberg Businessweek
But, in (the) new version, we have introduced a static left hand panel with all the options which makes everything being searched more relevant. Our users don’t have to, any more, sift through different options as it (is) smarter and faster. Also, we have refreshed the new logo to make it sharper and bolder.
So is there any change in the way search is generated?
With this particular launch, we are making no changes to the underlying algorithms to either search or the ads. The changes have been made to the design, not just the left hand panel but the overall design has been tweaked. How we have made it more relevant is through new algorithms (for) the left-hand panel.
What triggered the change?
At Google it is very simple: We derive all our motivation for changes from what our users need. The Web has become very complex, it is continuously becoming more complex. Similarly, users expect more from their search engines. They expect it to make sense of the growing amount of information. The driving force behind this change is that we had to make our search engine adjust to this complexity.
What made you confident that the new version would click with users?
We tried hundreds of different designs, all sorts of things. The designs that we liked we tested them in three different ways. The first, which we call bucket testing, (is) where we put up the new concept with a small sample of our user population and have them try them out randomly. And I must emphasize that this (is) one of the largest user interface experiments that Google has done internationally.
Second is a concept we call as dog fooding, we at Google tested it with our 20,000 employees who sent feedback directly to me. The third way is called usability test where we brought external people to the Google labs, have them experience it and then interview them.
According to some initial reviews, the left-hand panel is a lot like what Microsoft’s search engine Bing has.
In general, we try not to focus on our competitors. Instead, we try to focus on user needs. The key thing is that these are relevant tools and the left hand panel has some really powerful, unique ways of doing search.
Some user comments said that the left-hand panel is an unnecessary change and they would have liked it if Google kept it flexible like before?
At the onset, we know that change is hard. That’s why we are specifying that we carried out one of the most extensive user experiment(s) for this launch. And so, the initial reaction will be like getting a new haircut. We think that over time this will be the best way to get users through relevant content.