Sometimes I explore web.archive.org in order to study changes on prominent sites. This exploration is very useful for understanding design trends. Today I will share my insights into Google’s registration form.
2005: A List of Links and a Few Fields
The first part of the page contains links and a short description of Google’s services. The form is very small and does not collect personal information.
By the end of 2005, this page included even more links.
This approach seems strange today, as the common practice now is to present the main content as high on the page as possible. Why did Google put the form at the bottom of the page?
There are two explanations.
- The list of services both explains and highlights the value of a Google account. This was important in 2005 because a lot of people were newcomers to the Internet.
- The list of services helps promote different Google products.
2006: The Classical Google Registration Form
The big block of links has been replaced by a single string. Probably, Google had learned that a block of links was bad for the conversion rate.
The number of fields has increased. On the screen, we can see questions about location and “Personalized Search.” This set of fields existed for a very long time, and I still associate the Google signup form with it.
2009: Small UI Changes
The form has lost its borders and looks more clear and modern. The “Stay signed in” checkbox has been added.
2012: Attractive Form with a Large Amount of Text
The 2012 page is complicated and colorful. The form is distinctly separate from the text and contains several new fields: name, birthday, gender, mobile phone, and other email addresses. All elements are carefully designed.
Let us study some interesting details.
- The form is big enough to attract attention and small enough so that the form does not look as hard to fill.
- The “Month” field is dropdown, but the “Day” and “Year” fields require text input. Why? Because there are only 12 months. Selecting one of them with two clicks is very convenient. However, it is easier to write numbers to select the days instead of scrolling through 31 options.
- The “Mobile phone country code” field is only a compact flag. Usually, Google detects countries very precisely, so people do not need to interact with this field.
2013: Less Text, More Air
2014: Goodbye, Profile Avatars!
The block with the suggestion “Set up your profile and preferences just the way you like” has disappeared, perhaps because it was not so important for users. The information about Google on mobile devices is far more prominent. This may be because A/B tests demonstrate that bright profiles distract users from the form.
2019 – now: Clean, Simple, and Minimalistic
Interestingly, sometimes Google has an old form and a new form at the same time. I am going to study this occurrence more carefully.
I have created a video with all the significant changes of the form: 15 years in 40 seconds!