Today Google rolled out a revamped version of Google+, keeping its social networking product in line with the overall changes Google has been steadily making to all of its products to unify the user experience. According to the official Google blog,
A critical piece of this social layer is a design that grows alongside our aspirations. So today we’re introducing a more functional and flexible version of Google+. We think you’ll find it easier to use and nicer to look at, but most importantly, it accelerates our efforts to create a simpler, more beautiful Google.
Through a simplified method for customizing a profile and page, Google+ has made itself fairly easy and intuitive. Plenty of white space and easily accessible privacy settings, combined with a few tweaks to current features, makes this latest iteration of Google+ the most user-friendly yet. It’s clear that with these changes, Google is leaving room for additional features and making future updates and add-ons a likely fact.
Easier Page Management
For Google+ users who are administrators on multiple pages, the new changes have made being that admin much simpler. Pages can be accessed through several locations. Users can click on their icon in the upper right corner and see the pages they are admins of, or they can hover and/or click on the designated “Pages” app in the left navigation pane.
Finding Your Way
Navigation has been changed from a static collection of links at the top of the page over to the left sidebar as icons that can be moved by simple drag-and-drop. Moving an icon in or out of “More” hides or displays them. Hovering over an icon reveals actions we can take. The result is a more app-like feel that users are accustomed to today.
A new “Explore” page for both profiles and pages gives us quick access to trending topics and posts that are currently hot on Google+. We can adjust how much of these kinds of posts we want to see in our home page using a slider bar. Trending topics are also visible on the home page of a profile, though not on a page. Trending topics also indicate how the topic is trending.
The “Explore” page is a great place for profiles and pages to find content to share and to find new people to add to our Circles. Our goal is to find great content for our home page, and going exploring will help us do exactly that.
Easily Find Content
Saved searches have been moved from the left sidebar and are now located under the “More” button at the top. By doing this, Google has cleaned up the clutter on the sidebar significantly, and placed all of our information sources in one spot. We can easily see what content our Circles contain, and we can also find content based on general searches from people we don’t have in our Circles. It’s a one-stop location for finding content to share.
Image Is Everything
In a move similar to Facebook’s Timeline Cover Photo and Profile Image, Google+ now offers a larger Cover Photo and smaller Profile Photo. The difference is that Google+ allows users to select one long graphic, or to break it up into the five individual images previously used. The five-image option is a fun way to tell a story with photos if an album is set up correctly. However, users who prefer a single photo now have that option.
Google+ has long been a favorite of photographers and artists. The new design is good news for them: it emphasizes and encourages photos and images. Our photo albums are also easily accessible from the left navigation pane, and photos shared in a stream are quickly linked back to the original profile or page’s photo albums. Hovering over an image in a feed will offer options to view photo albums or more photos by the user who posted the image. Photos and videos in the stream are now full-bleed, filling the space beautifully and making photos and images more prominent than ever.
Quick links below each shared photo or post in a feed make it easy to see the entire conversation — using “conversation cards” — and activity surrounding the post, including who +1′d and who shared the post. Simple toggle action will show and hide this activity, keeping the news feed visually clean and not distracting from the photos or posts themselves.
One complaint Google+ had suffered from was the news feed being cluttered. This new design, using the conversation cards and more emphasis on images and actual content, has helped clean it up significantly.
Connecting Made Easier
For profiles, Google set the chat interface to the right, and upped the visual look of it. This makes it more of a stand-alone element and gives it more importance than it had previously, when it was simply tucked into the left side of the screen with nothing to visually set it apart.
Google has wisely given their excellent Hangouts feature its own page on profiles as well. This page includes an always-updated list of invitations from people in our circles, easy access to public and “On Air” hangouts, and a rotating collection of popular Hangouts and other tips for using Hangouts. While pages don’t have this option yet (though they can still create Hangouts easily enough), individual users can start and even join publicized hangouts. Businesses who publicize their hangout make it easier for these profile users to find them.
All in all, the new design isn’t necessarily a feature overhaul, but simply a case of Google making Google+ a more inviting social network to be a part of. Businesses and individuals can easily make use of the powerful features and the continued integration of Google+ into the rest of Google’s products. This design upgrade and across-the-board integration of products is just one more reason to not ignore Google+ and focus solely on Facebook.