Google’s core business, its search engine, is well-known for being clean and simple. Type in what you want and Google will bring up the most relevant websites. That’s how it works.
But Google Search doesn’t just show websites in its results these days. Now it includes an increasing variety of content from websites and tweets to videos and images. The aim is ultimately to provide the user with the most relevant information in the most accessible way.
Hector Ouilhet, Google’s head of design for Search and Assistant, told Business Insider this week that accommodating all of these new types of content in Search requires some careful consideration.
“The whole goal is to try to organise information and deliver it to you,” he said during an interview at the Tech Open Air conference in Berlin. “That’s the problem we’re trying to solve. The design has to accommodate multiple people, multiple expectations, and multiple situations.
“When you’re looking for whatever answer you want, how do we give you the right answer in a way that you’re like ‘oh yeah, that thing?” said Ouillet, whose team is responsible for the user experience across all of Google’s platforms and products. Today that includes watches and cars, as well as smartphones and computers.
Sometimes the answer to a Google Search is very precise, because the user’s intention is very specific, Ouillet said. For example: “What is 25 Celsius in Fahrenheit?”. But other times the question is more ambiguous and there’s no obvious answer. For example: “How often should I change the tyres on my car?”
Ouillet said Google often shows results to harder, more ambiguous questions with multiple “blocks”, which can include a range of different content types. “As technology starts producing much more rich content, so video, images, they’re all coming into this stream of results. So some results are more simple, others are more thorough.”
Ouilhet admitted that Googlers don’t always agree on how best to present information to the billions of people that use Google’s search engine, stressing that he doesn’t want to make it feel cluttered.
“There’s always this internal debate about how much functionality should we add to something,” he said. “Ideally we try to keep it focused and simple.”
When asked if there are any similarities between the design for Search and the design for Google’s new offices in Mountain View and London, Ouilhet pointed to the fact that both are becoming “more open and more flexible.” He said they were also both becoming more “inclusive between people that belong to Google and people that don’t belong to Google.”
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