Google Paints Its Links Black In Search UI Experiment, Users Revolt

“I see a blue link and I want to paint it black.” Taking a cue from The Rolling Stones, it looks as though Google is looking to possibly change things up on its iconic search page by painting its search links black. While this might not initially seem like a big deal to switch from blue to black links in Google’s search results, users that have been thrust into the limited A/B testing are already revolting.

google paintitblack

Up until this week, users saw link names in blue and the actual URL right below in green. But with the link names now black, users are complaining that the change is actually a step backwards in usability, making it harder to see which links have already been clicked:

It’s hard to disagree with that viewpoint, which explains the #bringbacktheblue hashtag that is blowing up on Twitter.

As for Google, it isn’t saying much about the change for now. "We're always running many small-scale experiments with the design of the results page,” said a Google spokesman in a statement. “We're not quite sure that black is the new blue.”

Changes to Google’s search results are nothing new, as the company regularly rolls out subtle tweaks in real-time to gauge click-through rates by its hordes of users. Back in 2009, the company famously experimented with 41 different shades of blue for the ads found in Gmail and Google search.

“We saw which shades of blue people liked the most, demonstrated by how much they clicked on them,” said Google UK managing director Dan Cobley in an interview back in February 2014. “As a result we learned that a slightly purpler shade of blue was more conducive to clicking than a slightly greener shade of blue, and gee whizz, we made a decision.”

That 2009 experiment resulted in a $200 million increase in revenue for Google (and the departure of at least one Google engineer). However, given the backlash from this “Paint it Black” campaign, we have the feeling that blue will be sticking around for a long time.