Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Google Images' New "Standard" Layout

Google Images gets a major makeover!

If you have tried searching images using Google in the past few months, you probably already noticed the new "standard" layout of Google Images. The new look of Google Images includes a dense, "tiled" layout with no description below the picture, a larger preview of the image on mouse-over, and instant scrolling between search pages.

Here is a screenshot of the new Google Images (using the search terms "cute cat"):

Tiled Layout

In the picture above, you will see that the new layout of Google Images no longer displays descriptions below the picture. It now simply contains "images" packed rather closely together. When you hover over an image, you will get the description, size, and some keywords, like in the following screenshot.

Preview on Hover

Infinite Scrolling

The new layout also features instant or "infinite" scrolling - meaning, no more clicking through page numbers to see the results on other pages because Google will display 18 or more pages worth of results in one go. This new layout maximizes the use of "Page Up" and "Page Down", which allows you to see more images without having to transfer to another page.

New Landing Page for Full Size

When you click on the image, you will be taken to a new "landing page" that displays the description on the right panel and the full-sized image on a translucent background with the source website. (below)

Type and Color Filters

Probably the most useful features are the type and color filters, which you can find on the left panel of the search window. If you are looking for a picture with a particular color, you can use the color filter to narrow your search to pictures with that specific color only. On the other hand, the type filter allows you to choose from face, photo, clip art, or line drawing. Below is an example of the search results for "cute cat" and filtered with type "Line drawing".


Okay, so did you find the recent changes in Google Images impressive? Or frustrating? As for me, it's a little of both. I found the new layout cluttered and overwhelming because of the number of results that you get at once. While this may have its advantages, like no more clicking page numbers, I personally would like to see just a clean, organized page with a few results that I can look at a few at a time. I don't really mind clicking page numbers to see more results if I have to and I don't need to see 18 pages of search results.

Another problem I have with the new Google Images is the loading time. It takes longer to display the results because a single search returns more than 10 pages worth of images in a single load. For people with slow connections, this might be frustrating because you will sometimes be unable to load the whole page. There might also be times when the whole page loads but the images do not - and all you'll get is a white page filled with gray boxes where the images should be.

The question now is, "Can I switch back to the old version?" The answer is "Yes". Yes, you can switch back to the old version of Google Images - the version where the results are displayed in defined columns with a short description below. The problem with switching back is that you have to wait for the whole page to load, and when it does, you have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page to find the "Switch to basic version" link. When you click this, the layout will indeed change to the older version, but when you click an image to view the larger version, you will still get the new landing page - which isn't really a big deal for me.

So why did Google implement these changes?

According to one article, Google aims to give users a more powerful and, at the same time, aesthetically-pleasing experience when searching for images on the web. Since information does not only include text, they incorporated complex algorithms into image searching so that users can get a more comprehensive result of what they are looking for. You could say the new Google Images is more intelligent than your ordinary image search engine in that it can organize and somehow "recognize" exactly "what" is being shown in a picture. In some ways it is similar to Photoshop CS5's being content-aware. (see article on CS5's Content-Aware Fill)

Unfortunately, the new Google Images was designed for modern and high-resolution browsers - and for people with fast internet connection. While Google is definitely brilliant in their algorithms, they probably still need a bit more work on the "aesthetic" side - especially with their image search function.

Official Google Blog

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