Hi guys and welcome to Style Division’s brand new technology and futurology section. I’ve always had a keen interest in techie things which culminated with me smashing open my kids laptop when I was 8  as I was convinced it literally ran on magic. Time has moved on and I’ve since started taking an active interest in the digital world around us, I work in a digital marketing agency so it pays to know where the industry is heading and also what can we expect from the future. In the coming articles I will discuss everything from wearable tech, the behemoth that is Google and something called ‘The Singularity’. It may be a bit of a departure from the usual fashion and style posts but who says tech can’t be sexy? Apple certainly proved that this can be achieved (among a myriad of other companies) so it’s time to stop thinking about geek and start thinking geek-chic.

Unified Google Design

In late September Google rolled out their new ‘unified design’ of displaying search results for mobile and tablet devices. The look was cleaner and simpler, optimized for touch, with results clustered on cards so you can focus on the answers you’re looking for. It seems that this change is now being adapted to desktop with categories/results that are related being grouped together as well as presenting a much cleaner and simpler look. The search result below could even be considered an ever evolving brand page with the G&S’s site, latest news, relevant links and company information all present on one page.

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Answer Cards and Knowledge Graph Integration

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If any of you use the Google Now app you’ll be used to having personalised ‘cards’ below the search box. These cards will show you anything from the weather, local photo ops, your football teams current score and even how busy your regular route home will be. As you can see above this ‘digi-cards’ approach seems to be where Google is leaning towards but I cannot speculate as to why. Maybe people find it easier to digest information if it’s presented to them in relevant and digestable chunks?

There has also been a recent update to Google called Hummingbird and although we’re not seeing much of it yet it’s going to be a major part of search for years to come. One of the features of this update is to better understand questions because typing ‘easter breaks 2014’ for example is not a natural way to search.

With the iPhone having Siri and Google Glass operated entirely by voice, understanding long queries is priority for Google. So in the future if someone searches by voice and says ‘where can I grab an italian’ Google could return a map of local Italian restaurants grouped by highest reviews. The language team at Google is actually testing the engines understanding of followup questions so if the user follows up the previous query with ‘which one’s the closest’, the information displayed should alter to answer that query.

Back in October it has also been revealed that Google and Microsoft were both working on new technologies to replace the traditional ‘cookie’. The new method is looking for a way to track the same user across computers, browsers, phones and even games consoles. As advertisers we will have a new range of data to play with and targeting same users depending on what device they use (e.g. get their interest on mobile whilst they’re walking around, whilst get them to convert on desktop).

The personalisation aspect is where it get’s interesting as you’re more likely to trust the review of a close friend rather than 10 strangers so that listing is likely to appear higher but only on your device. Personalisation options are always being added into the search algorhithm and it will become so seamless the normal user will not notice. The new tracking will allow for better results as your browsing at home can influence what results you get on mobile when you’re out.

Here are 4 basic examples I managed to find of Hummingbird/Knowledge Graph in action in the USA already.

Paid Advertising (PPC) Changes

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Google made it easy to distinguish ads on mobile and tablet devices with separate sponsored columns and different background colours although organic results are pretty much ‘below the fold’. Now though both backgrounds are the same (bar the little golden ‘Ad’ icon’ which would make it harder to distinguish between paid and sponsored results. The underline has been removed and the fonts have been made bigger.

Also I’m not sure if this is something that we can do already but there are reviews and G+ integration as well as extra relevant links below the first ad which I haven’t noticed before.

Google is constantly doing A/B testing, there are roughly 600 unique design changes being implemented every year but it feels like this ‘digi card’ approach as well as muddling the lines between sponsored/organic results could be the next step. With the implementation of cross-device tracking, a higher reliance on voice search and Google’s latest developments in machine learning the next few years are bound to be interesting.

If you’re interested in reading more here are some links:

Google + Machine Learning – http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/blog/techflash/2013/08/google-scientist-jeff-dean-on-how.html?page=all

Google’s acquisition of AI company DeepMind – http://www.theverge.com/2014/1/27/5352600/googles-deepmind-acquisition-might-be-about-search-not-robots