Google appears to have been testing the possibility of bringing its newest Material Design changes from Chrome to a wider user base via the Google search engine, based on a recent report from Optimising Senior SEO Specialist Brodie Clark. The test changes have been ongoing for some time with variable reach and scope beginning with familiar changes such as the rounding of the search bar and reduction of size to both the logo and top UI. In various instances that upper portion has also been made 'sticky' so that it doesn't scroll out of view, remaining easily accessible for continued searches. At the same time, the search giant has refined some design elements of the featured sections on its search engine results page. Shadows around many of those, including the right-hand sidebar or top stories sections, are reduced or removed altogether. The lines separating those into boxes have undergone similar changes, being either reduced or completely removed.
Product ads that appear when certain searches are performed have been made more prominent via a more efficient use of white space surrounding those and a switch to more squarely-shaped cards than the previously used vertical rectangle boxes. White space within those cards, including between text, prices, and other information, has been increased too. Call to actions ordinarily listed alongside some page elements where further action can be taken by the user have been flattened as well.
Background: The majority of the changes now spotted in the wider Google search UI seem to follow those that have already made an appearance on Android, Chrome OS, and in the Chrome browser. Those first began to be noticed in the Canary Channel of Chrome back in April as Google started working to bring consistency between its new design language for Android and its array of offerings, products, and services. The original Material Design language centered around the use of subtle shadows and rounded edges to create a poppy card-like feel. The second iteration of the UI continues that by rounding off any remaining sharp edges such as those found in the Chrome browser's Omnibox or the search box in the Android and iOS apps. It also seems to go further by flattening down the changes that have already been put in place, eliminating unnecessary shadows or dividing lines and reunifying the overall interface.
Impact: The differences between the way Google has implemented the new Material Design for mobile and Chrome and how it is implementing changes for desktop serve to highlight just how early in development the new UI is. For clarity, not every Chrome OS gadget or Android device has seen all of these changes arrive yet and there are still some applications that haven't quite been switched to the new standard either. The changes that have been put in place aren't necessarily identical across every platform. Specifically, there have seemed to be a lot of ongoing tests that aren't seeing a wider rollout and which vary significantly in design. Some consistency is present and obvious effort has been made to keep it that way but it also seems as though Google is just beginning to pull all of those efforts together.