By Harry McCracken | Monday, March 1, 2010 at 6:10 pm
Last November, I wrote about a test version of Google that left its search options sidebar open all the time. It never graduated to full public status. But I just stumbled upon what seems to be a variant. (It’s what I’m getting when I go to Google in Safari, but doesn’t show up in Chrome.)
Like the early test, it puts a left-hand sidebar of search options on the screen whenever you search–but this one’s sleeker, with fewer options (some stuff is hidden by default).
When you click to filter results, you get different options–for instance, clicking on News lets you refine to a particular timeframe:
Different searches get different filters in the default list–for instance, this search for “chair” includes images, but doesn’t include blogs and books, as the one about for “Palm Pre” did.
I’m a fan of Google’s search options–which, incidentally feels a little like the left-hand options in Bing, though the options you get are quite different–but I understand why the company is moving carefully before leaving them visible all the time. This new version is less busy than last year’s incarnation, but it’s still kind of confusing: It’s not particularly clear why options such as “Shopping,” News,” “Images,” and “More” appear both along the top and at the side, and why the order varies. Also a bit befuddling: You get both a “More” link and a “More options…” one. Then there’s the fact that the views that the top list calls “Web” and the left-hand one calls “Everything” appear to be the same thing.
And just to confuse matters more, clicking on links with the same name can get you slightly different results. The top image below is what I got with the left-hand “News,” and the bottom one showed up when I clicked on the top-row “News.”
Here’s what I’d like to see Google do, which might come pretty close to making everyone happy: Make the left-hand options…optional. Pop them open so make sure that folks know they’re available, but then provide a choice: leaving them visible, or concealing them unless you click on a link to reveal them. Me, I’d like to have all the options available all the time…
Let us know if you see this Google variant–and if so, what you think of it…