You probably didn’t realize it, or even cared to notice for that matter, but Google+ just rolled out its latest redesign last Wednesday. Gone is the old horizontal navigation with it being moved over to the left sidebar. This new navigation features drag-and-drop elements and actions as you hover over them to help streamline browsing Google+. They also introduced new features to help make it easier for users to engage in conversations, whether it is via chat or Google+ Hangouts.
You’ll notice major changes to your news feed as well, or lack of changes depending on how you look at it. There’s a strong possibility that you’re already a Facebook user, so you’ll feel more at home with the new Google+ news feed as it mimics what we’re all already use to on Facebook. Not only is there a bit of Facebook DNA in the redesign, but Twitter was also invited to the party with the trending topics list found on the homepage of your Google+ news feed.
Overall reception of the redesign is good, with Forbes, Wired, and Fast Company all agreeing that the abundance of white space in the new design is “simply more gorgeous” or that “the new Google+ look is cleaner and seems to make better use of the real estate.” However Fast Company goes on to say that even though the new design is great, it’s a little late to the party; Google+ simply can’t compete with Facebook’s massive user base.
While Google+ may look good and actually have some pretty cool features the numbers don’t lie. 170 million users sounds like a heap load of people, especially considering the growth rate at which it happened, but many of these users rarely are using the site frequently and to its full capacity. In an analytics report from comScore it showed that the average amount of time a visitor spent on Google+ in the US was a whopping 5.1 minutes. So when Google reports that they have an engagement rate over 80% it makes you wonder who exactly is calculating this and did they pass their stats class. Looking deeper into how this data was measured it was revealed that any time you are logged and actively using in to any of Google’s services you are counted as an user of Google+. (http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Enterprise-Networking/Google-User-Engagement-Questioned-Amid-Facebook-Rivalry-332227/) So your daily e-mail checking routine may be contributing to these numbers. Combine that with the number of people that use Google+ buttons without actually visiting the destination site, plus.google.com. (i.e. hitting the +1 button on favorable article) Surely between these two factors and the people who in fact use the site and 80% seems like a fitting number.
It is safe to say we all agree that Google+ is missing a certain spark that would set it ablaze. They have a great recipe; cool features, large user base, aesthetically pleasing, and even great commercials. Could it be that they were behind the curve or that they are trying to force it on you by integrating the site into all of their other applications? We are interested to see where exactly this train is headed.