Its trim feature set is a bonus for Google+, with less to clutter the screen. The key is a simple and consistent navigation theme that even carries over to the mobile app (more on that later). Everything branches off a five-button menu bar at the top of each page, linking to the five main sections: Home, Photos, Profile, Circles (friend groups) and Games.
In the Profile section, a similar menu bar below the first provides further breakdown to subsections, including Posts and +1s (essentially “likes”). Similar to Facebook, Google+ has a Home page dominated by a stream of detailed status updates from friends. All the tools for those friends—such as filtering updates by Circle or starting up a chat—live in a narrow left-hand column.
Facebook’s design is pretty busy by comparison. The left column, for example, is packed not only with friend lists and chat tools, but also links to other sections, such as messages, events, groups and apps. (To be fair, Google simply doesn’t have so many features to clutter the space.)
The far right column features the new Ticker, an abbreviated list of friend updates that contain just a few lines each. Clicking on an entry brings up the whole story, including full text, comments and photos. It’s very efficient, but also raises the question: Could this simply replace the big, central column of the page, which has the long-form version of status updates? Having both seems redundant.
The snazziest part of Facebook is a new profile page called Timeline. Clicking a button on the top of the ho-hum Home screen switches over to a seemingly endless page presenting the chronology of the user’s life via status updates, photos, events and affiliations with schools or jobs. It’s a handsome way to look back and reflect—both on one’s life and on how much Facebook knows about it.
Like an old house with various additions, Facebook has a lot of interesting places to go, but often has haphazard ways of reaching them. Google’s consistent interface limits confusion.