Google Image Search
Image Search was one of the most visited sites on Google, but it hadn’t changed much since it launched in 2001. The team regularly launched features, but they were very hesitant to change the overall presentation for fear that it would hurt the site metrics.
I joined the team mid 2008 as the lead UX designer. Over the next year, I worked with the entire team to launch several smaller projects and a complete overhaul of the Image Search experience.
When I started on the team, the results page looked like this. Every time a product would launch, the team would find a way to feature it in the search results page. This led to a lot of clutter and impeded the user to quickly scan through the image results.
My first step was to go through the existing research and data to come up with a common usage flows. I created this diagram to illustrate several different tasks our users commonly had, and how they interacted with our site to complete their goal. This was a great talking point to discusses how new projects fit into the user needs. It also aided the team in taking a look at the existing structure, and to see how we could make changes.
I created several versions of this storyboard to give meaning behind user data. This was used to illustrate how people typically interacted with our site and to reinforce that we should focus on the usability of the entire session, not just individual searches.
I worked with our analytical researcher to redefine our success metrics. This changed how the team thought about the user experience and allowed us to make a case to redesign the end-to-end experience.
I began mocking up different ways to paginate through the image results. We began testing higher fidelity mocks, both in the lab and through A/B testing. We decided to change our standard Google pagination to an infinite scroll model.
Since many people were nervous about a result page redesign, it was important not to jump to hi-fi mocks too quickly. I purposefully remained in ‘wireframe mode’ until I felt confident we had buy-in from the team.
After that, I began to explore how rich the space could look if we removed clutter. While many were still worried about what would happen if we removed meta data, or even borders, they were willing to experiment and try.
After testing, we decided to hide the meta data until the user hovered over an image.
The final major design hurdle for the results page, was to figure out what information needed to be displayed in the hover-over.
This was not an exploration I shared widely (too many choices that were too similar). It was an exercise for me to hone in on how much information I could remove while still providing the user with enough information to make a choice between the images.
This was a huge effort that required a lot of initial exploratory work to create buy-in. Redefining the success metrics and creating user stories was the key to build a case for a site redesign. The launch was very successful and we were able to create a scalable design that allowed users to review more images, quickly.