Chrome for Android is testing confusing New Tab update to get the old design back [U]

While Chrome has been visually updated over the years, Google has kept the core user experience intact to avoid “disorienting” users. Over the past few weeks, though, Chrome for Android has tested a redesigned New Tab Page that changes a lot of things for the worse, but luckily you can get the old version back.

Update 16/4/22: Google did not launch this redesign extensively last year. However, it has continued to repeat the flags since then and seems to introduce a certain element in the renewal.

When you open Chrome after a while away from the browser, Google displays a modified version of the New Tag page. The company logo is smaller, while the address bar is much higher with a carousel of newly built sites (like favicons) below. There is a “Continue Browsing” shortcut and feeds to Discover / Following below.

The good thing here, compared to before, is that you have quick access to the tab changer in the top right corner, and therefore this UI fits into the rest of Chrome. It’s not too big a departure and mostly fine as an idea to help people get back to what they’re doing in the browser. That said, it’s still an extra step.

Original 19/8/21: Normally, new features added to Chrome do not change the basic design. For example, if you does not use tab groups, most aspects of the mobile browser tab are unchanged.

The same cannot be said of the redesigned New Tab Page. The Google logo still appears at the top, but is much smaller and fits in the app bar. Next to it is your profile picture and overflow menu, but there is no tab toggle button (or open page count).

It’s part of my biggest grip with this redesign. By removing, Google has fundamentally raised the New Tab Page (NTP) – ironically – from being a tab. If you imagine the tab changer / grid view as Chrome’s underlying structure, then all open pages fit into it. In the past, NTP was just another map next to websites.

Now it’s a brand new screen and a piece of browser chrome found on top of Chrome’s existing layout. It’s more akin to settings, history, bookmarks, and other pages that have a close “x” in the upper right corner.

Google’s intended replacement is an unknown “See All” button that is part of the “Continue Browsing” carousel – one of two that happen to be stacked right on top of each other. The other is for the most recent / frequent pages and replaces the previous 4 × 2 layout, which was more efficient.

We first came across this new tab page redesign in late June. Over the past week, it has been shown to most users. Although the NTP update is not yet widely available, it may be an indication that Google is closer to launch.

Fortunately, you can change it with the # enable-start-surface flag. The drop-down menu offers a variety of iterations. Some do not even have an NTP, which is an expression of the new design’s lack of purpose / significance.

If you select “Disabled” at the very bottom and restart the browser, you will return to the old Chrome New tab page – until further notice.

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