There are already lots of posts and articles discussing the update to Google’s UI this morning. Preceded somewhat by the old Ask 3D, and more directly by Yahoo! and Bing, Google is promoting a three-column format with various filters (search options) on the left.
There are a dizzying array of options and tools there (previously text, now expanded and mostly graphical). Most of this is “power user” stuff. It comes out of “Universal Search” and is a successor strategy in a way to the blended organic content Google has been displaying in the body of search results. To my knowledge all that remains as it has been and won’t change.
To illustrate the new look, here’s the query “solar energy” before and after (I’m not seeing it yet so I borrowed Brad Stone’s/NYT’s graphic):
But what about local? What are the local features here worth noting? Most prominently you can filter by “Maps.” Because I can’t see it yet on any of my machines, I’ll have to speculate that it simply takes you quickly into Local/Maps.
There’s also the existing ability to sort by “nearby,” based on IP address or you can specify a custom location alternatively. Those have been part of the “search options” for a few months.
However I just noticed a “social” filter, which has probably been there too. I just hadn’t noticed it. This is what my options look like for the query “sushi” (new UI not yet live for me):
Danny Sullivan mentioned that there was also supposed to be a “reviews” filter (which is not exclusively local of course). It had existed previously, but apparently “didn’t make the cut.”
If you sort by “shopping” you’ll eventually be able to get to local product inventory information. It currently exists in mobile for a small number of large retailers and will be coming to the PC.
Some time ago Google changed the name of Maps to Local and back to Maps, citing consumer confusion over the idea of “Local.” However in mobile there’s a “Local” tab, which people “get.” In a way it would be better to have a Local icon/filter than a Maps icon. You could still have the maps icon at the top of the page. Local represents a broader sent of consumer intentions and use cases than Maps. However it would be problematic perhaps for Google to develop a new local filter.
Local is really a “horizontal vertical” — a more “narrow” category than general search that also happens to be broader than any other vertical, because it contains most other verticals. How to best reflect and represent this in this new set of UI changes and filters is both a daunting challenge and right now something of a missed opportunity.