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The New Google + Is Only The Beginning

More integrations on the way

Google launched a big redesign of Google+ on Wednesday. It’s in the process of rolling it out over the next few days. A Google spokesperson tells WebProNews, “The new version of Google+ will gradually start rolling out to all Google+ users globally this morning.”

“We think you’ll find it easier to use and nicer to look at, but most importantly, it accelerates our efforts to create a simpler, more beautiful Google,” says Vic Gundotra, one of the main brains behind Google+, in a post on Google+ itself.

The most noticeable change is the navigation, which is now on the left-hand side and can be manipulated by the user. You can move apps around to the order you want them in, hover over apps to see options, and show/hide apps by moving them to the “more” section.

“Taken together, these powers make it easier to access your favorites, and to adjust your preferences over time,” Gundotra says on the Google blog. “We’ve also built the ribbon with the future in mind, giving us an obvious (and clutter-free) space for The Next Big Feature, and The Feature After That. So stay tuned.”

The “What’s Hot” section has become part of a greater “Explore” section, which also points you to Google+ trends, and lets you view “ripples” on various posts in the stream (granted, it already did this).

There’s more emphasis on Hangouts. There’s a dedicated page just for Hangouts, including a list of invitations from people in your circles, easy access to every public/on air hangout, and what Google describes as “a rotating billboard of popular hangouts, pro tips and other items you don’t want to miss.”

For webmasters, developers, and those in marketing and/or in publishing, Google itself hosts a lot of useful hangouts that you will probably be able to find in this section. In fact, this feature could be huge for content discoverability and make Google+ a great deal more useful for video content alone. I’d look for future YouTube integrations in this department.

Photography is another majar area of focus, and with good reason. Google presents the photo upgrades along with conversation upgrades, and that makes a great deal of sense. As you probably know, Facebook just bought Instagram, which is as much a social network as a photo app. Instagram (as well as Flickr and others over the years) have proven that conversation goes hand in hand with photography. It’s for this reason that Google+ has already been so popular among photographers, though the integration of PIcasa Web Albums and the instant upload feature have probably helped too.

Photos are an incredibly important part of social media, and certainly are strategically for the companies operating the social networks. Photos attract users, and they attract those users’ friends. It’s a simple as that. The better photo experience a user gets, the more likely they are to continue using that service, and showing their photos to said friends (and family), thereby promoting that service.

So, the new features in this department, are: full bleed photos and videos, a stream of “conversation cards” and an “activity drawer” highlighting the community around your content, as Google puts it.

What Do Users Think Of The Redesign?

Some reactions from Google+:

Dylan Casey says: “New Google+ looks great. Solves the mess at the top. BTW, where is ‘my’ Google Bar?”

Cesar Gemelli says, “Maybe this #newgoogleplus will increase my productivity…”

Ben Umpleby says, “Ahhh, pretty new facelift, #newgoogleplus. Let’s see if this becomes any more fun than before. I got kind of tired of the drab look of the previous version.”

Not everyone loves it, of course.

Holly Melton says, “Not loving that the #newgoogleplus pushes everything to the left side of my screen…”

Isriya Paireepairit writes, “Please consider my proposal with the #newgoogleplus space utilization problem. You will see the space is wasted badly. In the world of widescreen laptop with short height, vertical content display space is expensive. My screen is 1280×800 and you want to allow me using only ~27% of my screen?”

It’s interesting to see the reactions on Twitter, given that not all Twitters are Google+ users. I was surprised at how many positive things were being said, in proportion to the negative things I was coming across. We often talk about Facebook being a major rival to Google, but we’ve also talked about Twitter as a competitor in the past as well, and Twitter has just as much to lose as Facebook, in terms of where users are spending their time, so it’s worth noting that Google is impressing a number of Twitter users.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think this translates to people saying, “OK, forget Twitter, I’m only using Google+ now,” or “Finally, I can stop using Facebook. Google+ has better navigation.” I’m just saying, the more Google can do to impress users of rival services, the better chance they have of capturing more of those users’ time using the web, which really means they have more opportunities to get ads or other Google services in front of them.

About the Author:
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

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