Google+ has always worked just fine. When it comes to uploading photos from Android phones and engaging in discussions with large groups of people, it’s actually more convenient than Facebook, not to mention Hangouts are pretty cool.
Its problem? Google+ is boring. Spare and functional works when it comes to search; for social networks, not so much. For a service that aims to connect you with your loved ones, Google+ has all the personality of an Excel spreadsheet.
Hence the latest redesign, announced today on Google’s blog.
It looks like photos and videos are going to be displayed more prominently — not a bad decision considering Google’s army of camera-equipped Android phones and its ownership of YouTube. We all love white space, but the old design took it to the extreme; now photos and videos will stand out as soon as you click on someone’s profile.
Google+ is also putting its most unique feature front and center: Hangouts. Right now starting a Hangout feels like initiating a Skype call; easy, but not conducive to casually joining a conversation or meeting new people. The redesign lets you browse public hangouts and live broadcasts and presents a list of up-to-date Hangout invites.
The navigation bar is also getting revamped, moving from a small spot on top of the screen to a large, customizable bar on the side. Now you’ll be able to drag and drop apps and hover over them to reveal more menu options.
There are a few other changes as well. Your home page will show a list of topics trending on Google+, icons will brighten up your list of Gchat (excuse me, Google Talk) contacts, and reshares and +1s will be more neatly displayed under popular posts.
Even if Google+ is more about the data-collecting +1 buttons spread across the web than creating a viable alternative to Facebook, stats showing that people only spend three minutes a month on the site — compared to 405 on Facebook — has to rankle Google’s top brass. This redesign could be the first step in reminding people that their Google+ accounts still exist.