It seems that one of Google’s UI designers must have gone to art school, as there can be no rational explanation for the mystery meat navigation they chose to implement for Google Image Search. As of now, a search result page does no longer give you all the information about the results, such as the originating website, the full resolution of the image, or its size. Instead, in a nod to web 2.0 design, we get a cool blue “highlight” when we hover with the mouse over a thumbnail, and the additional information is shown only while the mouse is hovering in this area. This is known as “mystery meat navigation”.
I’m sure Google apologists will try to explain that, oh, the user interface is so much cleaner this way! So much whitespace! It makes the user feel welcome, and reduces confusion with information the average searcher will not understand! Rubbish. The information is still there, just randomly popping up, being more confusing and distracting than ever. The change also reduces accessibility. For instance, the link “More results from ..” that will appear under some thumbnails disappears if the web user accidentally moves their mouse of the area of that particular image. Which is exactly the kind of mistake newbie users are likely to make. The lack of information makes it harder to ignore results from spammy sites, and on repeated searches for the same query, more difficult to distinguish known from unknown hits.
I have found no way to switch back to the old modus operandi. I find the new behavior so annoying that I will probably switch to Yahoo! Image search. Still, it’s somewhat reassuring that even the deviously clever folks at Google occasionally make profoundly idiotic UI decisions.