Sprucing up its famously plain Web site, Google Inc. is offering a new option that plants its Internet search box in panoramic settings that change with the time of day and the outside weather.
The colorful graphics to be unveiled Tuesday represent the latest bit of pizzaz to be served up on Google’s home page as the Mountain View-based company caters to the digerati who want to customize everything from their cell phones to their computers.
While most of Google’s users remain content seeing little more than the company logo and the search box that has anchored its home page for nearly a decade, millions of others have created log-ins that enable them to select from a variety of features that appear with each visit. These additional bells and whistles — introduced nearly two years ago — include stock quotes, local weather and news headlines.
Google’s new package of decorations, also known as “skins,” are designed to make the home page feel even more homey, said Marissa Mayer, the company’s vice president of search products and user experience.
“Google has become the doorway to the Internet for a lot of people, so we want to make (the site) feel more like an online living room,” Mayer said. “We feel we are personalizing things in a very tasteful and useable way.”
The use of more graphics also illustrates Google’s evolution from a once-pure Internet search engine into an all-purpose Web site that offers e-mail, news, photo sharing, instant messaging, shopping and mapping services.
The diversification over the past five years has raised worries that Google might be overextending itself, but the expansion hasn’t hurt so far. As its lead in the lucrative Internet search market continued to widen, Google more than doubled its profit to $3.1 billion last year.
Google wanted to jazz up its site with making things too busy or commercial.
Reflecting its cautious approach, Google’s first set of decorations consist of just six themes revolving mostly around landscapes. The settings include a Japanese tea garden, a beach, a city skyline and a bus stop. Google plans to introduce a few more themes each month and eventually may accept outside submissions, Mayer said.
Google’s has programmed its decorations to reflect what’s happening in the outside world. Users are asked to enter their ZIP code so the digital drawings change from day to night and fluctuate with the weather.
The designs also will contain hidden surprises known as “Easter eggs” that will open up with an opportune click at the right time of the day, Mayer said. She wouldn’t reveal any of the surprises, but indicated they will delight high-tech geeks with a sense of humor.