google search redesign

Google Search makeover ditches underlined links and downplays ads

Put down those glasses! Your eyes aren't playing tricks on you. Google Search indeed has a new look—one that ditches the Web 1.0-era link underlines and removes the big yellow boxes around advertisements in favor of more discrete yellow tags next to paid links.

The changes aren't exactly new: Similar tweaks first appeared on mobile search results all the way back in 2013.

"Today we've carried over several of those [mobile-first] changes to the desktop experience," Jon Wiley, design lead for Google Search, wrote on Google+ Wednesday. "We've increased the size of result titles, removed the underlines, and evened out all the line heights. This improves readability and creates an overall cleaner look. We've also brought over our new ad labels from mobile, making the multi-device experience more consistent."

The result is definitely a little jarring at first, but the weirdness quickly fades—I've been using a test version of the layout for a week or so. Not everyone is happy about the way paid search results are identified in the redesign, however.

“For users who avoided ads before, it will be harder for them to tell the difference,” Mike Mothner, CEO of online marketing agency Wpromote, told PCWorld during the layout's testing phase.

Making paid search results less obvious could bite everyone in the backside. Web surfers who feel they've been tricked into clicking on an ad can feel dissatisfied and be tempted to split for alternative websites, says Leo Dalakos, VP of performance media at Performics, a digital marketing agency—a loss for everyone involved.

To be honest, I think the bright yellow buttons that clearly say "Ad" next to a link are more clearly marked than the faint boxes that used to appear around paid search results. Bing and the privacy-focused DuckDuckGo search engine still use the older "colored boxes around ads" technique if you miss them.

What do you think? Sound off on the new look Google Search in the comments below.

IDG News Service's Zach Miners contributed to this report.

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