Google’s Search Fade-In: What’s the Point?

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Google fade-inGoogle is rarely publicity-shy and they’ve been promoting their new fade-in effect on the search home page. You may have seen it. Although it’s possible you haven’t — Google are testing the system and not everyone can view it.

It works like this:

  1. When you visit Google.com, only the logo, search box, search and “I’m Feeling Lucky” buttons are shown.
  2. You can now type a term and hit return to perform a search.
  3. However, if your mouse cursor moves anywhere within the browser viewport, the normal links and options fade into view.

(Note that Google has used progressive enhancement, so users without JavaScript will see the standard page.)

Here’s a short animation which demonstrates the action:

Google fade-in

According to the Google blog, the company has tested 10 variants of the fade-in and the company employees “really like it”.

Sorry Google, but I don’t get it? What benefit does the fade-in actually serve?

Hiding advanced or little-used functionality from the user can be a good thing. For example, many people have learned to love the ribbon in Microsoft Office. However, in this case, what’s the point in hiding a handful of options for a few milliseconds? I can’t believe many users are overwhelmed by the links — most people ignore them.

If the fade-in is aimed at new computer users, I suspect few will notice the effect. In my experience, novices tend to over-use the mouse in preference to their keyboard. For example, rather than hitting return, many will switch to the mouse to click an “OK” button. Those users will see the fade-in as soon as the page has loaded.

I initially wondered whether the fade-in would assist touch-screen or mobile users, but activating an on-screen keyboard would show the links too?

In addition, the effect requires several lines of JavaScript. That’s not a problem for most of us, but the extra page weight could dramatically increase Google’s hosting and bandwidth costs. This is a company that doesn’t add closing body and html tags to save a few precious bytes!

Ultimately, I can only think of one reason why Google has introduced the fade-in … competition from Bing. Bing is prettier and offers nicer animations but Google’s effect is hardly going to bring deserters back.

Whatever the reason, many people are asking how to disable the fade-in and a number of Greasemonkey scripts have already appeared. I’d be surprised if Google keep the effect.

What do you think of Google’s fade-in effect? Is it useful or should Google stick to basic search without the gimmicks?

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  • Juliana

    Regardless the reasons, it’s just stupid.

  • tony

    Agreed on what’s the point, but on the other hand it’s not exactly a negative? Maybe instead of having things load and appear from nowhere as would happen with a regular page once the CSS has loaded, google wanted people to see them differently. I guess to people outside the industry it’s pretty “cutting edge”, if they notice it. Also, I’ve found that once I’ve searched my attention is dragged upwards a little bit to their other services – maybe they want more people to explore google’s other offerings?

    Either way, it’s a pretty nice touch and doesn’t change much really. I quite like it.

  • Erick PAtrick

    I’d rather see the full color Google theme they’re testing too. Much nicer than this fade-in effect…! Bu the way, I’m still thinking about this overweight javascript they put… Such a strange move

  • kdbaumann

    actually it’s a bit confusing when you are expecting the old page to just be there. And honestly? They have such a simple page why bother? It’s not like they are really trying to sell you anything. Besides if I want clutter I can go to Yahoo. :-)

  • LFA

    I think Google should stick to theire core bussiness. It’s always the right move! Good search results in a simple interface is what got Google famous in the first place.

  • kingleo

    In terms of JavaScript, are we really surprised to see Goolge acts stupid ;)

  • rispodium

    i liked it- the reason? just aesthetics. every man and his dog are familiar with Gooogles links, and because of this they are able to make it better for a short while- the reason i say just a short wile i because a fter a few weeks i’l be as sick of it as you all are!

  • Sheheryar Khan

    I didn’t like it cuz i’ve to search things faster n its just a waste of time in my opinion. cuz it takes a bit time to load.

  • eda49

    The only logical reason that I can think of is their obession with focusing the user on the search bar and removing all other distractions from their page.

  • Herr Gabriel

    Despite that; who really uses the front page of Google anyway? I mean, dozens of people just type their search query right into their adress bar or the search bar / field so they get taken directly to the results page.

    I myself looked at the front page after many years just because this aesthetically nice fade-in of their links. Usage wise it is a total fail because it doesn’t really bring any benefit.

  • SpacePhoenix

    If they are going to “improve” their home page they could at least make sure that it validates. It loads quick on my comp which is fairly new, not sure how quick it would load on a computer that is older.

  • http://ratherodd.com Raffles

    I’m pretty indifferent to it, but it still does seem like a strange move, given how uncluttered the page already was, particularly in comparison to the likes of Yahoo.

    I’m also wondering why so many statements are written as questions on this post.

  • Ex Google User

    This fade in sucks and should be removed asap

    The google homepage was fine so why did they change it ?

  • apompei

    I don’t see a problem with it. I actually think this is in some way an attempt to return to their original design philosophy of, nothing but the essentials. I believe its in Designing Interactions that this is discussed.

    I immediately drew comparisons to Yahoo when it was the major browser competition for Google. They went for the complete opposite as far as page content and layout. I would venture a guess it is the same now with Bing. Just my two cents.

  • xNephilimx

    I found the animation really annoying. If it was only aesthetics why make it on mouse move and not just on load? I think that way it would look nice without annoying the hell out of users.

    I’m not really surprised about the bad javascript, though, we are talking about the guys that made the bottom border of the header with two 1px height divs instead of just adding a simple class to the div#ghead because they didn’t want to take out the body’s margins… And these wouldn’t be the only times google over-complicates markup and code…

  • Galen

    I’ve noticed this several times and LOVE IT! It is so cool. I really don’t understand why so many of you guys have a problem with it. It looks cool, does not slow down the load time, and is just neat. Kudos to Google for coming up with this!

  • Carlo

    It simply sucks. They don’t need to “coolify” main page, instead they should focus on enhancing iGoogle page a la Netvibes. From Google I expect speed, stability, useful features; not fancy effects.

  • http://brianswebdesign.com skunkbad

    I think somebody was bored. It was probably Thanksgiving day, and they were alone in the office.

  • kira8080

    I like it. It doesn’t take any functionality back and it adds a nice touch of modernism to the interface while further simplifying the basic look of their home page, which makes it even more user friendly.

  • http://www.delvarworld.com DelvarWorld

    I’m uncomfortable that no one has correctly named what Google is doing, especially someone writing web articles:

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&client=opera&rls=en&hs=pY&q=define%3A+progressive+disclosure&aq=f&oq=&aqi=

    It’s obvious what they are doing, and an interesting approach to it.

  • Anonymous

    Note that the fade-in effect only happens when you move the mouse or tab out of the search box. For most uses of the front page (type a query, hit return), the extra stuff remains out of sight, undistracting. It’s not just fancy graphical effects for their own sake. There’s a point to it.

  • Arkh

    “how to disable the fade-in” : no-script. I just learned about this new thing here.

  • Enoch Root

    A pointless waste of time and effort

  • pdade

    Google have always been good at keeping things simple but extremely effective. A lot of people still use Google for its main brand and that is search – getting the search results they want and moving on. To them, the additional content and links may be ‘clutter’ and prove no benefit; therefore this has simplified the homepage taking it back to its core functionality. For those who use the numerous other Google applications, it doesn’t affect this either. Therefore, this is a hybrid between keeping the homepage simple and effective for its core user base, yet still allowing those using other features to access them. This is simplification at its best.

  • I post anonymously

    This is a company that doesn’t add closing body and html tags to save a few precious bytes!

    What?! Google doesn’t care about saving a few bytes. At least for their home page. Check this out.

  • Anonymous

    It is a bing like simply

  • apu

    I find the new fade in annoying above anything else. I am used to have the clean Google page at my disposal immediately so waiting for the links to appear is as I said annoying. Even though I don’t need the appearing stuff I have a feeling I need to wait for them to appear before I can use Google. So for me the extra javascript is pointless waste of bandwidth. Also makes me think of Google’s gmail gadget they have introduced on iGoogle. What’s the point of using poorly functioning gadget when I can access the gmail just as fast with a single click of a link?

  • Simon

    Utterly pointless, it’s like when someone first discovers the animation effects possible with jQuery and proceeds to use them everywhere.

  • Xander

    I so very rarely use the actual Google homepage for search as it’s easier to do it from the Firefox/Safari/Chrome etc. search bar. But I’m all for it really, makes it a nice clean interface right from the start.

  • Scott Petrovic

    I personally don’t really care. This minor aesthetic change is probably nothing more than a marketing gimmick to give a little more attention with blog posts like this.

  • aemciv

    The majority of the public do not realize that you can put a javascript event listener on the mouse to sense when it moves and do something.

    Most of the population is going to think something is wrong with Google’s page because it took so long to load(finally moved their mouse) or their Internet connection is running slow. (picturing Grandma watching the page and waiting for the rest of the links to show up.

    I say bad move, too many idiots clicking the Internet icon…

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    Interesting comments. The scores so far:

    Like the fade-in: 9
    Don’t like it: 18

    With 4 comments that didn’t give an opinion either way and not counting me!

    Sorry Google — only a third of SitePoint users who expressed a preference liked it. It’d be a good time to run a poll … Matt?

  • Niubi

    Things happen, things change, things move on. Google’s just showing us how innovative it is again. Remember when tabbed browsing was first introduced and everyone hated it? Find me someone now who hates tabbed browsing. Remember when nobody liked online shopping because it was scary and new? Not a problem now, just ask the CEO of Amazon! Same goes for this. Whether it’s pointless or not is a moot point. I’m guessing that companies like http://www.ebay.com should be looking at companies like http://www.dubli.com and trying to figure out where the threat is. Google’s reacting to Bing by going the other way. What will eBay do?

    Just my 2 cents worth.

  • Roger Rabbit

    Google has forced me to use another search engine as the links on this new homepage are so faint i cannot see them very well. They make the search box bigger and then do this. This is just change for change sake and has totally backfired. Google clearly dont listen to their users who have complained since the experiments started.

    They should sack the person responsible for this horrendous mess

  • bydesign

    I love the fade-in effect. Google is always obsessive over keeping the page clean and uncluttered. As a power-user I appreciate the ability to only see what I’m using at any given time. google.com was getting slightly cluttered, and I think it was beginning to take away slightly from the strong brand and prominent search box. The fade allows them to keep central what they do best … search!

  • Anonymous

    God this is awful and is pushing me towards using bing !

    Sack the person responsible and make your complaint on google support

    http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Web+Search/thread?tid=70ca8ab28e3df1ae&hl=en&fid=70ca8ab28e3df1ae00047a3424caad7d

  • fxoverseer

    Hi Craig,

    I think you should add a third comment category, “not concerned”, to you list which is different from “no opinion”. I fall into the category of not concerned as the new feature doesn’t help or detract from my searching experience. Initially when I noticed the feature there was a fleeting “huh” moment. Now, for me, it’s just there and I consider it along the lines of the periodically changing Google logo. I go to Google hoping for the fastest most relevant search results to my quires the rest is incidental.

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    @Niubi
    I’m not convinced people ever hated tabbed browsing? Opera had it around 10 years ago and the other vendors followed. Even if you do hate it, you don’t need to use it.

    The same goes for online shopping. People always liked the convenience, but it took a while for Internet companies to gain public trust.

    The Google fade-in doesn’t really compare. It’s not particularly functional or helpful and looks like a cheap gimmick.

  • internet_is_just_a_fad

    To me, it appears more like a branding move than anything else.

    For most of its entire lifespan, Google has set itself apart from its main competitor (for a while anyway) Yahoo, with its clean design. I’ve noticed more links creeping in in the past few years. I think they are showing off some cool, even if pointless, effects while sticking to their brand — clean design with an excellent search engine. It’s all about the branding.

  • Anonymous

    Well i suggest you twitter @jonwiley and tell him what you think about is recent changes to google. They clearly do not listen to user feedback so tell him straight.

  • http://www.mortier.ca/ Ryan Mortier

    Bing is still sub par so why are people saying they are going to switch to Bing because of a fade in effect? Bing has a lot more useless junk on their homepage then Google does.

    I like it personally, it keeps the focus on the search.

  • Randy

    Is it just me, or has the fade been removed?

    I hope they delete that silly Marissa woman that championed the fade also.

  • Dylan

    The fade should stay in my opinion. It probably wouldn’t make sense in most other applications, but Google has a great opportunity to stretch its visitors perception of what the web is and how a page should act, and therefore, this helps emphasize that pages can react.

  • http://www.laughingliondesign.net Jennifer Farley

    I just noticed it now after reading your post. Hmmm, not sure what the benefits are with that. Ultimately I don’t think it changes the searching experience so maybe it’s the equivalent of Google putting up new curtains to see what they look like?

  • SD

    Er.

    It hides the advanced functionality indefinately – until the user moves the mouse.

    It does NOT hide it for a couple of seconds.

    If you don’t need it – i.e. you only want to use the main search input box – then, since the focus is already on this box – all you have to do is type and press enter.

    I think it’s great.

  • Monkeyb

    I see zero value in it other than it’s novel, which can be cool sometimes, but anyone advocating for the fade-in as if it has any utilitarian purpose is just fooling themselves and trying way too hard to come off as an ‘out-of-box’ thinker.

  • Gregory

    Well, for one thing, Google got all you talking about Google.

    Talk about furthering brand awareness…whether negative or positive…whether a user already or a newbie.

  • Pogo

    Pointless and a waste of time, plus it causes admuncher to f*** up.

  • http://www.kingjason.co.uk jasonking

    When I go to Google now, I’m momentarily taken aback by the fade-in. It’s distracting and provides nothing helpful. Google’s home page is already simple and uncluttered so there’s no need to hide parts of it. It’s a gimmick and gimmicks aren’t why I use Google.

  • Reginald

    A couple of points:

    A) Not everyone uses Google.com for a search page. It seems like most of the fade defenders are making the point that there are other ways to search on Google. I think they’re forgetting that many, like me, use it as a lander to then go on to use Gmail, Google Image Search, Google Finance, et cetera. That’s the way Google designed it so of course that’s the way I’m used to using it. So waiting even a few seconds for those links to come up can be annoying at best, time-wasting at worst, especially if…

    B) You have an older computer and/or a bad internet connection. Seconds upon seconds can tick by before it finally fades in. I tested it myself on a slow wireless connection and 1/4 of the time the fade would hang and never come up at all.

    C) “I don’t see a big problem” doesn’t make it a feature. I have yet to see anyone say it’s really made their life better, so if a good portion of users hate it while the rest simply “don’t see a problem”, you’ve officially created something completely worthless.

    Congratulations, Google.

  • Jake

    Totally useless in my opinion

    Jake (http://trainwithjake.com)

  • Gucci

    When are google going to turn this fade off then ?

    Bored with seeing the firefox graphic

  • Mark

    I’ve been waiting for the fade to go away. This fade-in is pure torture!

    I have to wait each time I land on the page looking for image search, etc. ugh!

  • Vince

    What a silly article.

    I can’t believe many users are overwhelmed by the links — most people ignore them.

    Google gets millions of visitors each day, even 1% not ignoring those links is a lot of people. You shouldn’t generalize without data to back up your claim. Most descisions made at google are done based on hard data.

    I think a company worth billions of dollars knows what they are doing and have their reasons ;)

  • he

    don’t like it, no point and it’s crap!

  • Steve

    I do not like the fade. It adds nothing. Eye candy does not equal improvement. At the very least, there should be an option to turn it off. I guess I will use http://www.google.com/firefox or even (heaven forbid) bing until Google comes to their senses and removes this useless piece of fluff.

  • rj

    Let me count the number of ways I hate it.
    Um let’s see about 7,565,393,444 ways.

    How about that?

    Google is flexing its muscle.

    What they’re saying to all of us is:
    “We can be just like Microsoft now. We can do whatever we want because we are so huge. We don’t care if we piss off a few million people. We don’t need to give you an option to turn it off. Sure, some of you will complain, but, it doesn’t matter, you will still use Google regardless.

    We also will not allow you to contact us with your complaints either.”

    Who gives a flying crap if “Google’s” employees like it? Those dweebie propeller heads like scrambled eggs in a pie crust.

    We have websites devoted to Microsoft / Windows annoyances, now we can have sites devoted to Google’s annoyances.

    In my humble opinion, Google is starting to suck, big time and sadly, the momentum is in their favor. They will get bigger and more indifferent.

  • Antilope

    Just go to the Google Advanced Search page and make that your link to Google. The Google Advanced Search page doesn’t have the fade in feature (yet). This is a workaround for those of us that don’t like or want the fade in “feature”.

  • Zipidi

    EXCELLENT – love it !!

    Google have gone back to their beginnings.
    An opening web page with basically nothing but their name.

    LOL @ those whining that they have to wait half a second.

    It takes most people more than a second to switch their brain into gear.