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A Google designer takes us inside Search’s mobile redesign

The beginning of a new year inspires people everywhere to make changes. It's when many of us take stock of our lives, our careers or even just our surroundings and think about what improvements we can make. That's also been the case for Google designer Aileen Cheng. Aileen recently led a major visual redesign of the mobile Search experience, which rolls out in the coming days. “We wanted to take a step back to simplify a bit so people could find what they’re looking for faster and more easily,” she says. “I find it really refreshing. To me, it’s a breath of fresh air!” 

Like all organizing efforts, this one came with its challenges. “Rethinking the visual design for something like Search is really complex,” Aileen says. “That’s especially true given how much Google Search has evolved. We’re not just organizing the web’s information, but all the world’s information,” Aileen says. “We started with organizing web pages, but now there’s so much diversity in the types of content and information we have to help make sense of.” 

Image showing a mock-up of a Pixel phone with Google Search pulled up on the screen. The search results show answers about Humpback whales, including two images.

We recently had the chance to learn more about the new look from Aileen, as well as the process. Here are five things that drove the redesign: 

1. Bringing information into focus. “We want to let the search results shine, allowing people to focus on the information instead of the design elements around it,” says Aileen. “It’s about simplifying the experience and getting people to the information they’re looking for as clearly and quickly as possible.” 

2. Making text easier to read. One way the team did this was by using larger, bolder text, so the human eye can scan and understand Search results faster. “We’re making the result and section titles bigger, as well,” Aileen says. While we’re on the subject of text: The update also includes more of Google’s own font, which already shows up in Android and Gmail, among other Google products. “Bringing consistency to when and how we use fonts in Search was important, too, which also helps people parse information more efficiently,” Aileen explains. 

Image showing a phone with Google Search pulled up on the screen. The search query is for "running spots sf."

3. Creating more breathing room. “We decided to create a new edge-to-edge results design and to minimize the use of shadows, making it easier to immediately see what you’re looking for,” says Aileen. “The overall effect is that you have more visual space and breathing room for Search results and other content to take center stage.”

4. Using color to highlight what’s important. Aileen says that some other iterations of the redesign experimented with using lots of bold colors, and others tried more muted tones. They weren’t quite right, though, and ultimately the team focused on centering content and images against a clean background and using color more intentionally to guide the eye to important information without being overwhelming or distracting. “It has an optimistic feel, too,” Aileen says.  

5. Leaning into that “Googley” feeling. If you’re noticing the new design feels a little bubblier and bouncier, you’re onto something. “If you look at the Google logo, you’ll notice there’s a lot of roundness to it, so we’re borrowing from that and bringing it to other places as well,” says Aileen. You’ll see that in parts of this redesign, like in rounded icons and imagery. “That form is already so much a part of our DNA. Just look at the Search bar, or the magnifying glass,” Aileen points out.

Image showing Google logo with design effects pointing to its roundness.

Part of the work is also in refreshing the look while remaining familiar. “My three-year-old recently dropped a handful of Legos in my hand, red, yellow, green, blue, and he told me, ‘Mama, this is Google,’” Aileen says. “That’s how playful and well known we are to people. And when we redesign something, we want to bring that familiarity and approachability with us, too.”

8 Facts about Google and the News Media Bargaining Code

Today we appeared at a public hearing of the Senate Committee that is reviewing a proposed new law, the News Media Bargaining Code. You can read Mel Silva’s opening statement here.

As we said at the hearing, we are committed to reaching a workable Code and see a clear path to getting there, but serious concerns with the current draft remain.

Here are some important facts we shared with the Committee at the hearing and in our recent submission:


Fact 1: Google supports a fair Code 

We’ve been clear that we don’t oppose a Code, nor are we opposed to supporting journalism––but how we do that matters. The current version of this law remains unworkable for Google, but we believe that the concerns we and others have raised can be addressed with reasonable changes. We have proposed a solution that would see Google pay publishers for value under this new law––without breaking Google Search.  


Fact 2: The draft Code is unworkable for Google in three key areas

  1. Paying news sites for snippets and links:By designating Search together with an overly broad and vague definition of news, the Code effectively forces Google to pay to show links in an unprecedented intervention that would fundamentally break how search engines work. And the links we have to pay for are so broadly defined in the Code that we don’t know what is in or out. Right now, no website or search engine in Australia pays to connect people to other sites through links. The Code undermines one of the key principles ofthe open internet people use every day—something neither a search engine nor anyone who enjoys the benefits of the free and open web should accept. 

  2. An unfair and unprecedented arbitration process:The Code’s one-sided arbitration model, which only takes into consideration publishers’ costs and attempts to discount the benefit publishers receive from Google, together with baseball arbitration — incentivises publishers to make enormous and unreasonable demands. It’s a model that discourages good faith negotiations and encourages the use of arbitration which is intended as a last resort. This system exposes Google to unreasonable and unmanageable financial and operational risk. You can read more on our concerns about the arbitration process here and here

  3. Giving 14 days algorithm notification:The Code requires us to give news publishers special treatment—14 days’ notice of certain algorithms changes and ‘internal practices’. Even if we could comply, that would delay important updates for our users and give special treatment to news publishers in a way that would disadvantage every other website owner.


Fact 3: The Code as it stands breaks Google Search and puts our business in Australia at risk 

Paying for links and snippets undermines the basic principle of the internet––the ability to freely link between websites. Just like you don’t pay to include a hyperlink in an email, websites and search engines do not pay to provide links to third party websites. It would be like requiring the telephone directory to pay businesses to be able to include them—it simply makes no sense.

As we’ve been saying, we are committed to working with the Government to achieve a workable Code. However, the principle of unrestricted linking between websites is fundamental to the web and to Search. Coupled with the unmanageable financial and operational risk if this version of the Code were to become law it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia. That’s a worst-case scenario and the last thing we want to have happen—especially when there is a way forward to a workable Code that allows us to support Australian journalism without breaking Search.

We believe there’s still time to get this right: with reasonable amendments there is a path to a workable Code that provides a framework in which Google can pay publishers for value under the Code without undermining Google search and the fundamental importance of linking freely. 


Fact 4: It’s not just Google who says paying for links and snippets damages the web

Many others have raised concerns that paying for links and snippets would undermine the fundamentals of the free and open web. This includes: 

  • The Business Council of Australia said “...the requirement for digital platforms to pay for providing a link to another website runs counter to one of the fundamental tenets of the internet: the ability to link freely between content. The ability to freely make these connections has underpinned the creativity and sharing of knowledge enabled by the internet. This legislation undercuts this fundamental principle that has, for decades, enabled the internet to deliver real benefits to all Australians.”

  • Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, said the law “risks breaching a fundamental principle of the web by requiring payment for linking between certain content online”. 

  • Scott Farquhar, co-founder of Australian tech company Atlassian, told The Australian on January 15: “The precedent of charging for links and snippets is a fundamental threat to the open internet, not just Google.”

Vint Cerf, chief internet evangelist at Google, who’s also regarded as one of the ‘fathers of the internet’ said: “In its current state [the bill] represents a fundamental challenge to the free and open Internet, to the functioning of the country’s digital economy, and to Australia’s economic future…”

Many more submissions made to the Senate Committee and previously to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission raise similar concerns. Read more about the submissions to the ACCC here.


Fact 5: Google has a proposal for amendments to the law that support journalism––without breaking Google Search. 

We’re proposing to pay publishers through Google News Showcase, not for links and snippets in Search. News Showcase is a licensing program we’re investing AU$1.3 billion (US$1 billion) in globally over the next three years to help news businesses publish and promote their stories online. Publishers would get paid for journalist’s editorial expertise and beyond-the-paywall access to their journalism. Nearly 450 publications in a dozen countries globally have already signed up, including sixpublishers in Australia.

Google News Showcase would operate within this new law, with binding arbitration on News Showcase as a backstop to resolve any disputes. While remuneration would happen through News Showcase, the other minimum requirements in the Code could continue to apply to Google Search. 

We’ve also proposed reasonable amendments to the arbitration model that will bring it in line with widely accepted models and lead to fair commercial outcomes, and algorithm notification requirements that are workable for Google and useful for news publishers.


Fact 6: Google links people to news––we don’t show full articles.

Google doesn’t “use” news content—we link you to it, just like we link you to every other page on the web—think Wikipedia entries, personal blogs or business websites. We sort through hundreds of billions of webpages to find the most relevant, useful results in a fraction of a second, and present them in a way that helps you find what you’re looking for—and then we take you to the source of that information.

Some large publishers have inaccurately accused us of “stealing” news content, but how we connect people with news content, such as articles from the Herald Sun or the Sydney Morning Herald, is no different than the way Search connects you to your footy team’s home page, a website with your favourite recipes, or official Government websites. We sent more than 3 billion clicks and visits to Australian news publishers in 2018—for no charge—allowing these publishers to make money by showing their own ads, showing other articles or converting people into new paying subscribers—driving an estimated $218 million worth of value.


Fact 7: Google is not the reason for the decline in newspaper revenue over time 

An analysis conducted for Google by the economists at AlphaBeta, shows that the loss of newspaper revenue resulted primarily from the loss of classified ads to online classifieds businesses such as Domain, Realestate.com.au, Carsales and Seek. Between 2002 and 2018, newspaper revenue fell from $4.4 billion to $3 billion. Of that decline, 92% was from the loss of classified ads, and most of these classified revenues went to specialist online providers that target niches such as job advertisements, second-hand goods, or real estate listings. Almost none went to Google. Google's revenue growth was primarily from new money being spent by businesses that would previously not have spent money on advertising.


Fact 8: Google contributes $53 billion in benefits to Australia each year

We are committed to Australia, and through our work here, have grown the digital economy and provided $53 billion in benefits to businesses and consumers each year. In 2002, Google Australia started with just one person in a lounge room, today, our team has grown to be 1,800 strong. Today, we support an additional 116,000 jobs across the country, and provide $39 billion in benefits to Australian businesses and $14 billion in benefits to consumers. 

Mel Silva's opening statement to the Senate Economics Committee Inquiry

Editor’s Note: Today Google Australia’s Managing Director, Mel Silva, appeared at a public hearing of the Senate Economics Legislation Committee that is reviewing a proposed new law, the News Media Bargaining Code. Read her opening statement below, and find more information about Google and the News Media Bargaining Code in this blog.

Thank you, Senators, for your time. 

I am Mel Silva, Managing Director of Google Australia and New Zealand. I’m joined by Lucinda Longcroft, the Head of Government Affairs and Public Policy for Australia and New Zealand. 

Senators, I would like to start by saying that Google is committed to achieving a workable News Media Bargaining Code.

In its current form, the Code remains unworkable and if it became law would hurt not just Google, but small publishers, small businesses, and the millions of Australians that use our services every day. 

There is a way forward that allows Google to pay publishers for value, without breaking Google Search and our business in Australia. 

There are three areas of concern which I will touch on shortly, but the most critical of these is the requirement to pay for links and snippets in Search. This provision in the Code would set an untenable precedent for our business, and the digital economy. It’s not compatible with how search engines work, or how the internet works, and this is not just Google’s view - it has been cited in many of the submissions received by this Inquiry.  

The principle of unrestricted linking between websites is fundamental to Search. Coupled with the unmanageable financial and operational risk if this version of the Code were to become law it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia.

That would be a bad outcome not just for us, but for the Australian people, media diversity and small businesses who use Google Search.

Google is known for answering queries and helping people find what they are looking for on the web, one of the misconceptions at the heart of this debate is that our users only come to Google because they can find news, or that news is a disproportionate driver of our popularity. 

News and Journalism are a critical part of any democracy and we don’t disagree with that view. But in the context of Search - the ability to show results from a diverse range of news sources is equally as important as the ability to show results to a diverse range of childcare centers in your suburb.

Each year we help more than 19 million Australians find information online. The fact that we offer a useful search engine provides the platform for 1.3 million businesses, large and small, in Australia to be discovered by users here and around the world The fact that you can Search for everything from recipes, the weather, or news, means you also search for your local cafe, or great plumber near me

Relevant results for all kinds of queries is what brings users to our Search Engine and this is what enables those 1.3 million Aussie businesses to get discovered and also creates hundreds of millions of connections with their potential customers.

This has benefits for the entire Australian economy - and something that has been incredibly important for businesses as they navigate COVID and find new ways to connect with customers in the digital world.

This lies at the heart of our concerns with a Code that would require payments simply for links and snippets just to news results in Search.

The free service we offer Australian users, and our business model has been built on the ability to link freely between websites - this is a key building block of the internet.

Withdrawing our services from Australia is the last thing that I or Google want to have happen - especially when there is another way forward.

We propose technical amendments in three areas to address the key problems we’ve outlined. These allow Google to pay publishers for value, without breaking Google Search. 

First, rather than payment for links and snippets, the Code could designate News Showcase, and allow Google to reach commercial agreements to pay Australian news publishers for value in addition to the valuable traffic we already provide through Search.

News Showcase launched in 2020, and has global budget of $1.3 billion over three years, it pays news publishers for their editorial judgment in curating panels of news that appear daily on Google services, and it pays to grant users access to selected stories behind-the-paywall - not for links in Search. News Showcase enables Google to pay a diverse range of news publishers, including smaller and regional publishers. 

We have already reached News Showcase agreements with 450 publications globally, including 7 publishers in Australia. 

Secondly, the Code’s final offer arbitration model, with biased criteria presents unmanageable financial and operational risk for Google. If this is replaced with standard commercial arbitration based on comparable deals, this would incentivise good faith negotiations and ensure we’re held accountable by robust dispute resolution. 

Finally, the algorithm notification provision could be adjusted to require only reasonable notice about significant actionable changes to Google’s algorithm, to make sure publishers are able to respond to changes that affect them. 

In closing, Senators, there is a clear pathway to a fair and workable Code. With only slight amendments, the Code can support Australia as a world-leader in news innovation, media diversity, and consumer choice without sacrificing the benefits that Google provides to large and small businesses in Australia.

We look forward to responding to your questions. Thank you.

 
 
 

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