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Google gives Korean site a makeover

New look strays from clean, functional design

Google is trying out a new look on its South Korean site that goes further from the company's famously clean design than anything tried before.

Google has been quietly tinkering with the design of its website for some time. Most recently, a toolbar with text links was added at the top of its flagship site, just above the company's logo and search bar. The new site design introduced in South Korea replaces the toolbar with an array of logos - including a row of animated icons that expand when the mouse rolls over them - that add a dose of color, and clutter, to the site.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt announced the new look during a keynote speech today at the Seoul Digital Forum. He said Korean users were ready for the new design, describing them as more sophisticated. Schmidt didn't say whether the company planned to use the same design on other Google sites.

The changes to Google's South Korean site represent a departure from the traditional look of the company's website. Originally designed to be purely functional, with nothing that would slow the site down, the clean look of Google's search engine was embraced by the company's earliest users, helping to endear the site to them. As the range of Google's services has expanded in recent years, the company has looked for ways to include them on the main site and promote them to users.

The South Korean Google design includes icons above the search bar, for web search, image search, news search, blog search, and Google Groups search. The row of animated icons below the search bar lead to Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, Google Notebook, Google Toolbar, Google Desktop, and Picasa.

"As more services are rolled out in South Korea, such as Google Maps, these will be added to the site," Schmidt said.


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