Google is rethinking how it shows favicons on desktop search

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Google is responding to a crescendo of criticism.

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What you need to know

  • Google tested a more colorful design for desktop Search, inspired by a similar mobile UI.
  • The new design was criticized for the use of favicons which dulled the distinction between ads and content.
  • Google has now stripped favicons from the design in response and plans to iterate on the UI a little more.

Last week, Google started rolling out a
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for desktop users. The firm billed it as a way for users to more easily see what sites they were clicking into. However, a second, more concerning side-effect emerged. The distinction between ads and content was blurred.

On the one hand, Google had a bolded AD label, on the other hand, the excess of visual clutter on the page lead to confusion and widespread criticism. It appeared that the firm had taken this design decision to bolster its ads business and lead more users to click on ads where they may otherwise not have.

They're finally coming at this from the other direction:
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— Luca K. B. Masters (@lkbm)
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Regardless of the motives, Google has acknowledged the criticism of its new interface, and will be testing more iterations of the desktop search going forward. As of now, it's stripped all favicons on the search page already and ditched the more colorful design it had just rolled out.

Last week we updated the look of Search on desktop to mirror what’s been on mobile for months. We’ve heard your feedback about the update. We always want to make Search better, so we’re going to experiment with new placements for favicons….

— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison)
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Google explained its reasoning with the following statement:

We're dedicated to improving the desktop experience for Search, and as part of our efforts we rolled out a new design last week, mirroring the design that we've had for many months on mobile. The design has been well received by users on mobile screens, as it helps people more quickly see where information is coming from and they can see a prominent bolded ad label at the top. Web publishers have also told us they like having their brand iconography on the search results page. While early tests for desktop were positive, we are experimenting with a change to the current desktop favicons, and will continue to iterate on the design over time.
The new favicon free design is already live for Search users.

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