Why Does The New Google+ Use So Much Whitespace?

Google launched a massive redesign of Google+ earlier today. The reaction to this new interface for the company’s fledgling social network have been generally positive, but most users are somewhat confused about why there is suddenly so much whitespace on the site. Indeed, the #whitespace hashtag is currently trending on the site and it’s probably the most discussed “feature” of the new design. I think there is a reason behind this madness, though.

What Google’s Vic Gundotra didn’t talk about when he announced the changes this morning was the fact that Google has now also switched to a responsive web design for Google+. Instead of a traditional fixed-width design, responsive design adapts to the size of your browser window. So while your Facebook page always looks the same, no matter whether you’ve maximized your browser window or not, the new Google+ design actually changes as you re-size your browser window. Right now, Google isn’t doing much with this capability, but it definitely built this redesign around this idea.

To see this in action, just head over to Google+ and re-size your browser. If your window is big enough, your Google Chat buddy list will either appear on the right side of the screen or, as you make the browser smaller, show up as a collapsed menu in the bottom right side of the window.

In a short hangout earlier this morning, Vic Gundotra pointed out that Google is obviously quite aware of the whitespace. He also said that Google isn’t planning to use the space for advertising, but wouldn’t say more about it.

What Google will do with this space is anybody’s guess. As we’re moving to bigger and wider screens, though (which are actually rather suboptimal for the kind of news feeds that are at the center of services like Google+, Facebook and Twitter), it only makes sense for Google to experiment with wider layouts as well and to figure out how to best use them.

Until it actually does something with all of this newfound space, though, you can install this Chrome plugin to remove the whitespace for the time being.

[image credit: Mark Thurman]