Thursday, 12 April 2012

Uses for White Space and Google+'s Redesign

Google+ has been rolling out a redesign in the past few days to a mixed reception.  Rather than the quite regular, centric design we had before when Google's social network was just starting out, we had a left-aligned, much more integrated appearance with some new and interesting features.

Standing out for me is the left hand navigation bar, the new cover/profile image, the trending on Google+ section and the massive white space...

Navigation Bar

The thing I like the best about Google+ is how you can drag things around, they pop up and fade away, move around and much more.  It looks nice and it animates and is very dynamic.  The new navigation bar is very much in this vein and makes G+ clear and simple to get around and access what you want to.  These can be rearranged, also, by dragging and dropping, and have some lovely fades and animations to show you which area you are moving to.

Cover/Profile Image

Facebook's recent Timeline design seemed to take Google+'s old (but not defunct) five image spread which was often taken advantage of to create a long image on a profile.  Google+ seems to have countered this idea with a cover photo of their own, which goes behind the square profile image, as an alternative to their five image version.  It works well and also is shown when you hover over the name of a user elsewhere, a nice little touch.

To add your cover photo, edit your profile and click change image.  You can use a photo you already have uploaded (Google+ will alow you to reshape it in the right dimensions) or a bespoke one created by yourself: the cover photo size is 940 x 180 pixels.  Don't forget that your profile image will go over the top towards the right so leave space!

Trending on Google+

One of Twitter's big pulls is the ability to see what subjects and topics are being talked about most at any given time.  Trending topics, as they are called, can show things going on in the world, what's popular in culture and is a great way of connecting with others over the internet.

As well as having the ability to hashtag things, Google+ has now got a similar feature to Twitter fact almost identical.  Trending on Google+ shows you what is being talked about the most at any given time, in very the same way as Twitter.  Found in the new Explore tab and on the homepage, extra features include a ranking indicator to show if something is on the up in the trending stakes or calming down and the option to 'join the discussion' around the trend immediately.

White Space

The biggest gripe so far against the redesign seems to be the gaping hole on the right of the screen, with nothing in it but white space.  There are rumours this space is ready to fill up with money-making adverts but for now, nothing.  There must be something planned to fill this space and in the meantime, Google+ users have began to create memes and come up with funny ideas of how to fill this space with #usesforwhitespace (see below).  The jokes and fun being had out of a potentially bad situation goes to show what kind of people use Google+.

An Inception style white space usage. (+Terrence M. Boyd)

Still Missing

The option to have a specific URL for a Google+ profile or brand page is still missing; we are left with a mass of numbers at the end of each profile URL.  In addition, although there are apparently 170m users on Google+, it is still too quiet for me to get really involved with.  Google is clearly going up against the social media giants of the world and seem to be trying to create a network where your Twitter and Facebook needs can be found in one place.  The jury is still out as to whether Google+ will succeed in its mission but the social media world moves so fast, anything could happen.