Google recently announced their fade in homepage. From a marketing perspective I think it is interesting to try to figure out why they did that. Marissa Mayer wrote:
the variant of the homepage we are launching today was positive or neutral on all key metrics, except one: time to first action. At first, this worried us a bit: Google is all about getting you where you are going faster — how could we launch something that potentially slowed users down? Then, we realized: we want users to notice this change... and it does take time to notice something (though in this case, only milliseconds!). Our goal then became to understand whether or not over time the users began to use the homepage even more efficiently than the control group and, sure enough, that was the trend we observed.
I think there are 3 big reasons to consider such a test
- it is now impossible for any competitor to win by being viewed as more minimalistic (on the homepage, anyhow)
- as Google noises up their search results with various verticals (from their universal search) they want to remind searchers how beautiful and minimalistic and elegant Google is
- to get people to pay more attention to the ads below the search box (making them appear a second later makes them POP much more than if those directed ads were there right off the start...and as Google enters more verticals with new features they will use that announcement area on the homepage much more often)
The blank page conveys simplicity even as Google dominates new verticals by becoming more complex.
Such initial perceptions matter a lot in marketing. You see people quote your site as being advanced or basic or some such, and when some such statements skew in the direction that is opposite reality that comes down to mis-perceptions.
We are planning on doing a new site design soon(ish) because while our site design was perfect for what it was back then (a personal blog about SEO) as our site has bolted on so many pieces (training + community +newsletter + tools) that I think the design doesn't fit all the stuff we have added to it. If you shift with the market but do not shift your design it is a bit of mixed messaging, and anything that increases doubt or confusion is a tax on conversion.
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