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Understanding the New Google+ Layout

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Colby Brown, author of Google+ for Photographers, was pleasantly surprised by the updated interface for Google+ that was unveiled on April 11. He points out some of the new and changed features that will make you a Google+ believer.
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On April 11, 2012, Google unveiled the latest changes to its increasingly popular online network Google+, the largest set of updates since the network was first introduced to the world in June 2011. As with any change to a popular product or service, this premiere garnered praise and the subsequent gathering of pitchforks—a situation all too familiar to the creators of Facebook. However, as the dust settles from this move, I'm stoked to report that the network has a stronger, cleaner, and more polished user interface than nearly any other social network (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 The new Google+ Sign In page.

I recently spoke with Bradley Horowitz, VP of Product Management at Google+. He told me that the team of Google+ designers and engineers went down to a pixel level, page by page, when designing the new look. This fact helps to explain why, even though a few sections of Google+ still look the same, they feel different.

When I'm working with web designers to update or change the look of websites for the photography companies I run, I always ask for the same basic principles: Simple. Sleek. Fluid. If this is the level at which I judge the new look of Google+, it has exceeded my expectations.

Home Page

The first difference you'll notice in the Home page is that the Google+ navigation bar is no longer at the top of the screen; it now resides in the left sidebar (see Figure 2). This change is great not only because your mouse has less distance to travel to move throughout Google+, but because the navigation bar is customizable. Do you visit your Circles page more than your Photos page? You can easily change the order with a simple click-and-drag.

Figure 2 The new Google+ Home page.

Notice that the content is also aligned on the left side of the screen. Next to it are three main sections:

  • Trending on Google+ shows topics that have high levels of activity on the network.
  • You May Know helps you to find individuals with whom you might want to connect.
  • You Might Like lists Google+ business pages that might pique your interest.

If you happen to have an open invite for a Google+ hangout, it will appear in the same column, as shown in Figure 2.

The Google chat menu has moved to the far right of the screen, balancing out the look of the page. Just above that section is a Start a Hangout button that you can use to create your own custom Google+ hangout.

Finally, your Circle filters are represented at the top of the home page. The first three circles that you've set up via your Circles page are shown here (see Figure 3). Clicking any of these options applies a filter to the content stream, allowing you see to screen out everything but the content from the individuals in those circles. You can access the rest of your Circle filters by clicking the More button.

Figure 3 Circle filters in Google+.

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