Google has revisited the design of its Places pages. The new look is cleaner, involves more calls to action, and – most importantly – removes all the reviews that were being imported from competing sites.
The New Look of Google Places
Google began updating its overall look to coincide with the launch of Google+, from Maps, to Gmail, to Calendar. The company seems committed to cleaner, crisper designs – but why?
First, brand unity is a major part of Google's new tactic. The company is focusing on a smaller number of projects, and each of those projects is being tied to the core of what Google is. This unity and integration also serves as a foundation that Google+ and any future Google services can rest on.
Further, mobile devices have been a big inspiration in the new designs. The buttons for important actions are easier to see and more independent from other design elements, and thus are easier to use on tablets and smartphones. The new look for Places reflects both the mobile optimization and new brand unity that Google is pursuing.
Here's a quick snapshot of the new design:
The Choice to Drop Outside Reviews
Google has been criticized for using outside reviews for several months – ever since a much earlier iteration of Places that made it clear Google would be more than an aggregator; it had every intention of being a competitor. Prior to that point, companies were glad to have their reviews shared, and to get the links back to their core site. After the design and functionality changes, though, several major sites prevented Google from streaming their data.
Even sites that didn't block Google were none too happy, and several have demanded that Google not use their data for a competing service. Some of the big names who had their reviews imported, including Yelp and TripAdvisor, were among the groups calling for the Google antitrust investigation.
Superficially, at least, Google's removal of the outside reviews looks like a response to the antitrust concerns. As mentioned by FT.com, "Google’s change in practice came little more than a week after Dana Wagner, its legal director, came under attack about the practice from opponents at a conference of US state attorneys-general."
Interesting, though, is a further statement from Google: The company plans on "Integrating some of the great information that’s been buried on Place pages into your web search experience across all Google platforms." Since elevating Places on the Google SERP was another concern being investigated by the FTC's antitrust review, it's clear that Google isn't motivated solely by being under the microscope.