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google plus designGoogle+ is taking baby steps (okay, giant leaps!) through the social scene. A cursory glance through the Chrome Web Store already reveals that a number of developers are preoccupied with creating extensions for improving the usability of Google’s newest social networking tool. That’s always like a disguised compliment which says that the Google+ is okay, it’s just the little things we want to customize for our own selves.

One of the little things is obviously the appearance and how it affects the flow of information; two critical factors when it comes to usability and design of any web app. One of the Chrome extensions that’s trying to achieve that balance is Google+ Ultimate.

Google+ Ultimate helps you customize the look of Google+ with a few little tweaks here and there. Exactly what are those enhancements and do they make for a better Google+? Let’s find out by installing the Google Chrome extension.

This is how Google+ looks before the install:

google plus design

This is a screen after installation of the Google+ Ultimate extension. Can you spot the differences?

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customize google plus

The first change you notice is that the background has acquired a brushed metallic look. That’s just one of the three background modifications you can set from the extension’s Options.

customize google plus

Not much of a choice because the basic shade remains dull grey. But it raises the contrast and readability in my opinion. Also, the new design is more compact

Another very clear design enhancement are the fixed Google bar and the Google+ navigation bar. This makes the site more functional as you don’t have to scroll up and down to look at notifications or the Shares.

customize google plus

The left panel is also fixed with the chat getting its own thin scrollbar. You might like the idea of a fixed left panel; it makes Google+ navigation a bit more fluid. The visibility of the chat list gets a bit hindered because of the scrollable chat area. An increase in the scrollable height could have helped the view even if the contacts are offline.

google plus designer

The top navigation bar can also be made Ultra Compact from Options. This gives more space to the content and improves the appearance for wider screens. Though, I couldn’t find much of a difference in my normal 1280 x 768 resolution screen. The settings direct you to a sample image as an example of the compact look.

The Google+ Ultimate extension rings in a few optional changes inspired from Facebook. Media embeds in the stream are reduced to more Facebook like sizes. This frees up space but does not hamper the viewer as videos expand on play. If you don’t like the reduced size, revert back to the original from Options.

google plus designer

google plus design

The Google+ Ultimate extension also gives a peek into the experimental side-by-side view. This could be real handy for people with widescreen monitors as it would give them a landscape view of their entire stream.

The Google+ Ultimate extension doesn’t facelift Google Plus, but the minor surgeries it performs look nice enough for a tryout. The compactness is a definite plus for me. What about you? Which enhancements do you like the most or would want on the extension’s wish list?

  1. Vi @ Travel Tips
    July 29, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    I hope it will be available for Firefox users too.

  2. Saikat Basu
    July 27, 2011 at 3:52 am

    Well, it's the same thing we non-U.S residents feel with services like Google Music. But Google+ has opened up again (or at least I think so), and I think you can get into it now.

  3. Thomas Lessman
    July 27, 2011 at 12:50 am

    OK I'm about past the point of being teased about Google+, reading about its extensions, uses, popularity, etc., yet not being able to join or use it at all. It's almost like an exclusive "club" that only people with a certain kind of popularity can join. I understand that it's in "testing" phase (whatever that means; did MySpace or FaceBook ever have a "testing" phase that seemed to publicly taunting yet exclusive?)

    I mean seriously, Google either needs to open it up or drop the "hype" BS because I'm at that point of being sick of hearing about it (but not being able to use it). I'm a very big fan of Google and I'm sure I will remain a big fan of their ideals for a very long time, but I don't like this "hype" campaign because it's really starting to make me feel like it's an elusive club that all the "cool people" belong to and talk about, but I'm not invited, even being excluded from.

    Thomas Lessman
    http://www.ThomasLessman.com

  4. Anonymous
    July 26, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    This looks like a nice extension. Unfortunately, I still have no G+ account. Anyone willing to send an invite to ha.alamin@gmail.com?

    BTW, is there a Safari version of this extension?

    • Tina
      July 27, 2011 at 12:27 am

      Habib,

      you might want to join this thread on MakeUseOf Answers: http://www.makeuseof.com/answers/can-anyone-share-a-google-invite-with-me/

    • Mark O'Neill
      July 27, 2011 at 1:34 pm

      I've just sent you an invite :-)

      • Anonymous
        July 27, 2011 at 10:41 pm

        Thanks! I got 4 invites, including one from you, so thanks everyone! Just sucks that I have to lie about my age. I made a new account, signed in with that and clicked the link. Fortunately, it worked and I'm in. I'm 17, I just don't understand what they are trying to "protect" me from. People are ridiculous sometimes. This age restriction just makes me angry.
        My google plus account is plusclosedbeta@@gmail:disqus.com

  5. fran cisco
    July 26, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    hope google copies some of these extensions and that pays the devs for their work

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