Streaming is big business and no one understands this better than Google. Which means Search also needs to focus better on streaming and that’s now exactly what seems to be the case with new screenshots of Search on mobile having now surfaced on social media (via) highlighting a revamped design that comes with a clear focus on streaming providers.
As is always the case with new Search-related design changes like these, the changes are not currently visible to everyone with Google seemingly testing the design with a limited number of users. Likewise, Google also seems to be testing different versions so any particular user might see the new design shown here, the existing normal design that most device users will be exposed to, or something entirely different.
Now streaming on a device near you
The most obvious change with the new design is the addition of the “available to stream” option that's now visible. This will vary be keyword, but the screenshots essentially highlight that searching for phrases related to “shows” or “movies” returns the available to stream section which highlights some of the more prominent options that are currently available to stream, with links through to start streaming.
The new design not only provides additional filters for the user to improve the quality of results (for example, the option to filter by provider - HBO, Prime, etc), but the user is actually able to manually add their preferred providers which in turn is understood to feed back into the main results that are returned. A process which should in theory result in an even more personalized list that’s completely dedicated to the streaming options related to the user.
This is not just for vague searches either as the same design seems to be in testing for when users search for specific providers such as Netflix and HBO. While this is not technically different to before (as the Search results previously did also return the same results), the design is more user friendly, more visual, and generally requires less clicks to get the user to where they want to go with the overall emphasis now more on watching than being served information - and that's the real takeaway here.
Streaming now more important than purchasing?
Previously, searching for a movie or show title would typically return informational results and not necessarily watchable ones. If a user was to continue clicking through the various cards/tabs/links, and even directly on the “Watch” tab of a title's card, they would typically be directed to rental options like Google Play, YouTube, and Amazon Prime. This tendency to return options to rent (especially when it comes to a show) was likely to have been evidence that in Google's Search mind, the option to buy and rent was the preference for most users. Compare that approach to what's being shown in these screenshots and it would seem Search now places a greater emphasis on accessing content through streaming services. A likely reflection of the uptake in users that are now accessing streaming services, as well as Google’s understanding Search also needs to better reflect that user change in habit to remain a useful tool. In other words, streaming is starting to get more prominence than purchase and rentals, and in some respects, even more than information - and even when phases as vague as “shows” are used.
Still early days
As this is only in testing, there’s no guarantee that the design shown here will eventually make it out to all users, but the fact that Google is testing a design like this, and especially when taking into consideration the rise of streaming, it makes sense that a design like this will be rolled out to users in due course. So although it may not be this exact design, users most likely should expect a more streaming-focused design to begin to show up on their devices.
There’s also the issue of the feature expanding enough to the point where it is better reflective of the width of the streaming market, as while it seems users can select their providers, the list they can select from is still a little limited and largely resigned to the more well-known and popular options, such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon Prime and SHOWTIME. Of course, this is to be somewhat expected with the feature first being developed with the help of larger streaming entities that are more accessible to Google Search. Not to mention, they are also likely to be the streaming options most applicable, to most people. As time goes on, however, it would be expected that developers and Google both look to include a wider number of streaming options, resulting in an even more personalized and streaming-focused Search experience.