A revamped app launcher experience rolled out to Chrome OS dev channel users last week, giving many of you reading us ample time to give it a critical once over.
“Google has been working on the new design for more than a year”
Gone is the portrait box with its grid of icons shunting up in the corner of the screen. In its place comes a wider canvas set slap bang in the center of the display and carrying a more prominent search field.
The change is enabled by default in the latest developer channel release of Chrome OS but will, in the near future, roll out to both Windows and Linux users of Google Chrome on the desktop.
But is it winning you over? In this article we’ll take a look at the case for and against the new design.
The Case Against
We are all creatures of habit. We get used to doing things in a certain way. Any sudden change, however trivial it may be, to a routine is tantamount to a boulder landing in the middle of a busy highway.
For those who make heavy use of their mouse/trackpad the new App Launcher does seem to require more effort to do regular things, like opening apps.
Take positioning. The “classic” launcher we are all used to will shunt up from the “click point” a few pixels above the launcher icon.
The new “Ares” design is further up the screen. This creates a slight disconnect between icon and result: you click the app list icon and then push your mouse up.
And then there’s the new ‘Start Page’ that replaces the app grid. This emphasises search over all else, and shows just four app shortcuts at first blush. The old “grid” layout is still available but now behind an additional click on the “All Apps” folder.
More clicks, more mouse movement. But change isn’t always bad, even if it is disruptive at first.
The Case For
Google hire the world’s best designers, interaction experts and coders. They’re a data-first company who are notoriously cautious when making changes to any of their products, however small. They only do so when there are big, tangible benefits to be had.
As rebuff to the argument that “more effort” is needed to use the new app launcher like the old one is perhaps moot. Since most app windows open in or around the centre of the screen after being opened anyway, the new launcher simply makes one ‘mouse up’ sooner, before an icon is clicked rather than immediately after.
As for apps being harder to get at, I think that’s moot, too. Showing links to one’s four most commonly used apps (it doesn’t duplicate those already pinned to the App Shelf) means one doesn’t have to go looking for apps ‘Where’s Wally/Waldo’ style every other day.
The changes feed into a larger shift, moving the launcher away from “box of shortcuts” and into a versatile, information-rich start page.
For example, the search box is now more prominent, topped with the familiar Google logo and centred like the main Google homepage. It screams “Hey user, you can make regular web searches from here, too!”.
In switching to a larger, wider canvas there is more potential for additional content to be surfaced directly, like bookmarks, history and data from within applications, maybe even those ‘Google Info Cards’ some search pages show.
Those are the main arguments I’ve seen put forward over the past few weeks. But what do you think of the new design? Is it a hit? Or does it fall wide of the mark? Let us know your opinion in our poll below.