Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bigger is Better

A couple of weeks ago, we made the search box on the Google homepage bigger. Most people who bothered to comment on it seemed to be grumpy. This is understandable – users tend to prefer familiarity, particularly when the interface is something they use every day to accomplish a task. But people are also more likely to speak up when they have a complaint. Overall, people actually like the bigger search box.

I find the speculation across the Web of why we might have done this fascinating. The real answer is exactly what Marissa said in the blog post:
Although this is a very simple idea and an even simpler change, we're excited about it — because it symbolizes our focus on search and because it makes our clean, minimalist homepage even easier and more fun to use.
Search is a conversation between you and the search engine. The search box is your primary means of communicating with the search engine. Making the search box bigger gives more attention to this important interface element, and better conveys a sense that Google is listening. A bigger search box is a bigger click target and the increased font size makes it easier to read. And I'll tell you a secret…

I wanted it to be even bigger.

Not too much bigger. The size of the box is determined by the size of the font inside of it, and the font in my original design was a little bigger. But I had not taken the query suggestions into account at first. The suggestions tend to look better if they are aligned with the search query. But the suggestions would have been too big at my original font size, so we scaled it back a bit. Even simple solutions have trade-offs.