Thursday, March 23, 2017

Google redesigns its mobile app and website with tappable search shortcuts

Google this morning announced a redesign for its iOS and Android search application, as well as its site on the mobile web, which now includes tappable shortcuts to areas like sports, weather, food and drink, entertainment and other interests. The idea here is to give users a different way to explore Google, instead of requiring the entry of a voice or text search query.

As the company explains in its announcement of the new design, “the Google search box is great when you’re looking for a specific answer, but there are also moments when you just want to catch up on the latest for topics of interest.”

The shortcuts appear at the top of the Google app or mobile site just below the search box. For example, there are shortcuts that take you to the weather, to sports or entertainment news, where you can do things like catch up on scores, watch trailers, read reviews, see what’s playing nearby and more. Other shortcuts will help you find places to eat.

If you tap the arrow to the right of the main shortcuts on Android, you’re taken to a whole page filled with the tappable icons, which are organized into categories like Nearby, Lifestyle, Tools, Fun, Weather, Travel and My Stuff — the latter which is a personalized section that will pop you into your own emails, events, flights or hotels.

From here, Android users will be able to do things like access Google Translate, look up nearby attractions, find flights or hotels, do an internet speed test, convert currency or even play games like tic-tac-toe, roll a die, animal sounds or solitaire. Google threw in the “I’m Feeling Curious” search option as a shortcut, too, because why not?

To be clear, none of the functionality introduced today is new to Google — it’s just been organized into a tappable, simplified interface. The design almost feels as if Google is trying to now cater to a less-savvy internet user — one who didn’t know that Google could surface this type of information, and would turn to other apps instead.

The changes also come at a time when the major technology companies are bringing back the idea of portals as a stepping off point to the web. In the internet’s early years, users would visit their favorite homepages for this sort of information — news, weather, local, sports, etc. Now, they’re being shuffled off into apps. Facebook, for example, has been trying to combat this shift, by steadily adding features that would have otherwise necessitated users to exit its own app for others — like weather, shopping, jobs and more.

Google says that it will also later introduce new shortcuts for “big moments and events” in the future, which could mean it will create one-off shortcuts for things that attract a lot of search queries, like elections or Olympics, perhaps.

The new design is rolling out now in the most recent version of the Google mobile app.

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