Google is Testing a Design Overhaul for their Search Bar on Desktop

By Brodie Clark

December 12, 2021
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google new search bar test desktop

Google has been in the process of testing out new inclusions for their search bar on desktop since earlier this year, and it looks like it’s starting to take shape.

I’m now seeing what looks like more of a finished product for Google’s search bar on desktop, which presents a cleaner design and more drop-down functionality to work with.

In this post, I’ll be exploring some of the changes that Google is testing in the desktop search bar design overhaul, with screenshot comparisons included, along with some background on the changes.

As a starting point, the most useful way to see the new desktop search bar test is via video, because there’s some interesting elements involved with the changes. Here’s what this looks like.

What the new desktop search bar test looks like

The new desktop search bar test can be found in the video that I uploaded to Twitter below:

As you can see, the test includes quite a few elements that aren’t included in the existing desktop search bar design. Here’s a screenshot showing the existing search bar along with the new test – without the drop-down section being expanded on the page:

Existing desktop search bar:

New desktop search bar test (Variation #1):

New desktop search bar test (Variation #2):

With variation #2 of the desktop search bar test, the input font and icons don’t become greyed out. There is also a shadow effect that takes place when hovering over the input field with the divider.

From the above screenshot comparison, there are 4 different changes that are worthy of mention. Here’s the 4 different changes that are visible in this screenshot comparison:

  1. Text size: the size of the text that is inputted into the search bar is now larger than the standard search bar font. This is something that Google was actually testing more recently, but on mobile instead.
  2. Hover effect removal: the hover effect for the search bar has now been removed completely from the new test. Google has tested various designs for the input field dating back to early 2019, but never removal of the enclosed section completely on desktop as the current test shows.
  3. Grey icons/font: once the search bar is clicked, the text is black as it is normally. Once you click away from the search bar on the SERP, the text then becomes greyed out. The same goes for the magnifying glass and ‘search by voice’ icons, which both also go grey once the SERP is clicked.
  4. Divider movement: the divider has been pushed upward within the new test. In the existing design, the divider has been placed to underline the search bar menu items. In the new test, the divider is used to segregate the menu items from the search bar itself.
  5. Thicker blue menu underline: being one of the more subtle and less noteworthy additions to this test is that the underline for the menu item that is the selection is now thicker. This is likely for design purposes to bring more colour to the search bar, considering there is now a lot of grey for contrast.

The above changes on their own are quite noteworthy and important to keep in mind. But it doesn’t just stop there with this new desktop search bar test, there is also new drop-down elements and logo transformation that happens.

The logo and drop-down components of the test

In the new test, the two other distinct components that are worth mentioning relate to what happens if a user then goes back to the search bar to do an additional search after the previous search was submitted.

Again, I’ll now show a comparison of what Google’s existing search bar on desktop looks like after the above steps are taken. Here’s what the comparison of the two currently looks like:

Existing desktop drop-down:

Note: this wasn’t how Google’s autocomplete was showing on desktop up until today. Previously, there was no inclusion of the People Also Ask results that can seen above. This was a test from just a couple of weeks back, and it now looks like Google is showing this for all users on desktop as of today (the same time that the below test is appearing, perhaps a gradual approach to the rollout).

New desktop drop-down test (Variation #1):

New desktop drop-down test (Variation #2):

Variation #2: the placement of the upward facing grey arrow is to the right, rather than the left. It also looks like the ‘sign in’ button and apps link is either broken or purposely stationed on the divider, along with the logo remaining the same.

There are some distinct features in the above screenshot that make it different to the existing (but only as of today) drop-down on Google. The new test goes beyond just autocomplete changes with some key updates to the design and functionality.

Overall, I’m able to see 3 different core changes based on the comparison of the above screenshots of the search bar on desktop after clicking on the search bar prior to querying. Here’s an outline of the changes:

  1. Full-width drop-down: with the existing search bar, you can see that below the magnifying glass that the line does not continue across the full page, almost looking like the section is broken (because it likely is). The new test removes the need for the bubble section with the shadow, so the search bar is now considered full-width, similar to how some eCommerce sites have with their mega menus. This results in the items aligned to the right of the search bar being visible at all times, such as the ‘sign in’ button.
  2. Upward arrow to collapse section: the upward grey arrow to collapse the menu again is another interesting aspect that I hadn’t seen before. This is quite a nice piece of functionality for the search bar in my opinion, considering it has now taken the place of the same grey magnifying glass icon that also appears alongside the 12 search suggestions below.
  3. Logo transformation: the logo transformation from the full Google logo to the G on its own is one that I’ve documented in the past, but I only recall seeing it in Google’s mobile search results. There’s 2 examples of this from a blog post that I wrote just over a year ago here. Again, this is a transition that looks great and I think Google should run with.

The above 3 changes combined with the 5 changes to the search bar itself make up 8 changes in total with the new test on Google. Some of which I have seen in the past in some capacity, and others with are brand new.

Summary of findings

In summary, there’s plenty of changes that Google is testing with the new desktop search bar test that are worthy of writing and documenting in this article, which I always do if I believe it’s useful for SEOs to know about.

Normally, I would just add minor changes to my SERP timeline, which does include a lot of the references to prior tests that I’ve mentioned in this post. But again, there is plenty to analyse here and it looks like Google has been working toward a final product in the design I’m seeing.

Overall there are some important takeaways from this post that I’ll now detail. Here’s an outline of these changes:

  • Google is now testing a completely new search bar in their desktop search results. There are 5 changes to the search bar itself, and then 3 changes to the drop-down section that appears on second click (8 in total).
  • The changes span from changing the size of text, colour of icons, functionality of the search bar itself, and more. The most distinct of all changes in my opinion would have to be full-width change with the drop-down now going completely to the side of the window, rather than having the bubble section with shadow.
  • With this test, Google has actually snuck in a rollout at the same time. The rollout being the inclusion of the duplication of the People Also Ask results (they still appear on the SERP itself) with the grey background. This was not previously showing as the default, with there being several other similar tests in recent time.
  • Based on my knowledge of many of the components that have gone into this test, and how long they have been testing these components for, I wouldn’t be surprised if they roll out this change quite quickly.

This version of Google’s desktop search bar is jam-packed with changes that make the search bar more visually appearing and likely more in line with how users use the search bar in 2021 and beyond.

I’ll keep you all posted on twitter with Google’s next steps with their search bar, but for now this is just a test (aside from the People Also Ask rollout), so there may be more refinement to come.

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