Google last week announced a redesign for its Android and iOS search application, as well as its Google.com site on the mobile web, which now includes shortcuts to areas like sports, weather, food and drink, entertainment and other interests that you can tap to search. The idea here is to give users a different way to explore Google, instead of requiring the entry of a voice or text search query.
While the Google search box is great when you are looking for a specific answer, there are also moments when you just want to catch up on the latest for topics of interest. The shortcuts appear at the top of the Google app or mobile site just below the search box. For example, there are shortcuts that take you to the weather, to sports or entertainment news, where you can do things like catch up on scores, watch trailers, read reviews, see what is playing nearby and more. Other shortcuts will help you find places to eat.
If you tap the arrow to the right of the main shortcuts on Android, you are taken to a whole page filled with icons that can be tap searched, including categories like Nearby, Lifestyle, Tools, Fun, Weather, Travel and My Stuff — the latter which is a personalized section that will pop you into your own emails, events, flights or hotels.
From here, Android users will be able to do things like access Google Translate, look up nearby attractions, find flights or hotels, do an internet speed test, convert currency or even play games like tic-tac-toe, roll a die, animal sounds or solitaire. There is also an ‘I’m Feeling Curious’ search option as a shortcut.
To be clear, none of the functionality introduced today is new to Google — it has just been organized into a simplified interface that uses tapping. The design almost feels as if Google is trying to now cater to a less-savvy internet user — one who did not know that Google could surface this type of information, and would turn to other apps instead.
The changes also come at a time when the major technology companies are bringing back the idea of portals as a stepping off point to the web. In the internet’s early years, users would visit their favorite homepages for this sort of information — news, weather, local, sports, etc. Now, they are being shuffled off into apps. Facebook, for example, has been trying to combat this shift, by steadily adding features that would have otherwise necessitated users to exit its own app for others — like weather, shopping, jobs and more.
Google says that it will also later introduce new shortcuts for ‘big moments and events’ in the future, which could mean it will create one-off shortcuts for things that attract a lot of search queries, like elections or Olympics, perhaps.
The new design is rolling out now in the most recent version of the Google mobile app.