Google added tiny favicon icons to its search results this week for some reason, creating more clutter in what used to be a clean interface, and seemingly without actually improving the results or the user experience. The company says it’s part of a plan to make clearer where information is coming from, but how?
To give you an idea of how minimal the change is, here’s what it looked like when Google made the same tweak last year to the browsing experience on phones:
In my Chrome desktop browser, it feels like an aggravating, unnecessary change that doesn’t actually help the user determine how good, bad, or reputable an actual search result might be. Yes, ads are still clearly marked with the word “ad,” which is a good thing. But do I need to see Best Buy’s logo or AT&T’s blue circle when I search for “Samsung Fold” to know they’re trying to sell me something?
The company tweeted that the change to desktop results were rolling out this week, “helping searchers better understand where information is coming from, more easily scan results & decide what to explore.” But though the logos have been visible in search results on Google’s mobile browser since last year, Google’s statement doesn’t address how successful or irrelevant the favicons might have been for mobile users.
When Google first launched, its sparse, almost blank search page and minimalist results were an extremely welcome change, compared to the detritus on other search home pages at the time (which persists on sites like Yahoo). Adding favicons makes Google’s search results look a little cartoonish, and if we think Facebook users who can’t determine a reputable news source from their racist uncle’s favorite blog are going to be assisted by tiny pictures on Google, well, we’re likely to be disappointed.
Google does often make changes to search that actually do improve user experience or results, though. In the past few months, Google changed its search algorithm so it doesn’t see a search query as a “bag of words,” improved its results to prioritize reputable news sources, and even added augmented reality results to searches.
If you’re intrigued by the new logos in your search results, Google provided instructions on how to change or add a favicon in search results for those who don’t know. Lifehacker also provided instructions on how to apply filters to undo the favicon nonsense and revert back to how the search results used to look. You can decide which how-to is the more useful.