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Friday, April 18, 2008

Another Google Video Redesign

Google Video redesigned their US homepage again; above, you can see the past designs of Google Video leading to the current one*. The service started out as a video-free search service for stills and captions from TV, then became a video storage & sales site, and since last year, is a meta video search engine. The latest design recommends a couple of “hot videos,” which play in a left-side player if you click on them. “The hot video list is compiled by looking at a variety of signals including videos that most shared, viewed and blogged about,” Google says. Most of the video recommendations at the moment are from Google-owned YouTube.

Below the hot videos, another section lists videos “Featured on AOL” probably put up due to the alliance between Google and AOL; this is typical of how portal-style sites usually emphasize what their partners have to offer as opposed to what the user may really look for.

The Google Video player page has also been reorganized. It looks a bit more organized and application-like now, letting you expand and collapse its elements, and using tabs or arrow-button paging to organize comments and other features.

When you play videos from other sites, Google continues to wrap them in a frame, but Google’s part of the frame is now positioned to the left instead of the top, perhaps to not push down videos too much on the page:

Google’s frame can be closed with an X to its top right, but that won’t remove the frameset itself, so the video URL (e.g. when shared with friends) will still point to Google; you can click “original context” at the bottom of Google’s frame though to remove their frameset completely**.

I’m curious how this frame benefits Google users in the first place though. At Google images, where a similar frame is used, it serves a purpose because the target image is often buried deep down in the page, making it harder to find (clicking on the thumbnail at the top will lead directly to the image then). Usually no such obstacle is found on video result pages, though, where the video is visible immediately – perhaps making the first beneficiary of that Google frame Google Inc itself, as it makes users stay longer on their site. What’s more, Google’s “share” and “related videos” features offered in their frame are usually redundant as the target video site already offers these. (In 2004, Google co-founder Larry Page told Playboy, “We want you to come to Google and quickly find what you want. Then we’re happy to send you to the other sites. In fact, that’s the point. The portal strategy tries to own all of the information.” The 4 years that passed since then are a long time on the web.)

Google Video’s search result pages changed in this redesign, too. By default you will see a thumbnail to the left and snippet and link too the right, ordered in a list view. But now you can toggle to a grid view as well as a TV view on top. The TV view splits the page into a list to the left and a player widget to the middle right. Clicking on a result in the TV view will dynamically embed the other video sharing site’s video. While this also keeps users longer at Google Video than at other sites, this time the feature makes sense for users, as no features (like related videos, or sharing) are mirrored on the page. Video sharing sites will likely continue to add more commercials of their own right into the embedded films to make money, independent of which site the user is on. However, the end result of the TV view is not quite as fluent as zapping through TV channels at all time because partly, the external site (like will be very slow to load.

[Thanks Jilm!]

*Not all homepage design iterations are included in that image.

**Note this frameset is also not included when you click on video search results from Google’s main web search engine, which continues to be a video search engine as well as part of Google’s “universal search” approach. Universal search aims to let people search through all kinds of content without having to visit the specialized search homepage.


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