Last week’s release of a renewed Chrome Web Store by Google increased signups to Handcraft by 1000%. What happened?
Better surfacing of content
The new Chrome Web Store dramatically simplifies navigation to three options: scroll the current view, click on one of the categories or search. This is a significant improvement over the old store where the page contained a lot of chrome and was broken up into many sections, like “Apps”, “Extensions”, “Featured” and “Popular”. Now the page just shows you content, and the left-hand navigation bar has categories, including “Popular” and “Collections”, which seems clearer to differentiate between than featured and popular. Also of note is that the store no longer tells you about the difference between extensions and apps – they’re all apps now, which is a step away from the namespace popularised by Firefox and its extensions ecosystem.
More content in the same amount of space
Although the old store gave each item a lot of room, the new one reflects Google’s new taste for compact, minimalist design more closely by only showing apps. Each app is represented by a banner and a little footnote with its title and some stats like how many users it has or what its rating is (this appears to vary depending on which list you’re looking at, something they’re probably experimenting with).
Banners everywhere instead of icons
While the original Chrome Web Store mirrored the design of Apple’s iTunes Store quite closely, the new Web Store follows its own path with banners of varying sizes representing apps in most places rather than icons. This works well as it increases the density of information you get about each app when you see it in a list, allowing you to decide whether you want to click based on a larger number of signals than what an icon can offer you.
Clear banner guidelines for app developers
Before launching the new store, Google contacted every app developer and let us know that we’d have to upload new banners to represent our apps in the new store. One of the guidelines was that the banner had to be big, bold, and use little text or miniscule details. This recommendation paid off, because now when you scroll through the store, you see exactly that: lots of big, bright, bold app names, with a little branding to set them apart and give you an idea of what they do. You can upload three different formats to represent your app, which comes in handy when you get featured by Google. “Getting featured” means either being displayed at the top in a huge rotating banner, or being displayed in a somewhat larger size than surrounding apps anywhere in a list.
More focused display of individual apps
The old layout for app pages was good, but the new one makes it clear that it could be better. It suffered from the same problems as the rest of the store: a lot of up-front information you don’t necessarily care about when looking to install an app. As such, the new display solves many of those problems. It loads faster since it’s now an inline overlay rather than a separate page. Reviews and extended details are hidden in separate tabs, allowing the most important details to immediately stand out. And since banners are now separate – banners being used to display the app throughout the store – screenshots, which are now also a lot bigger, get front and center attention whenever you click an app. And then there are lots of other small tweaks, like reducing the contrast and size of some text while making the “Install” button much more evident.
Overall, the new Chrome Web Store is a huge upgrade in terms of usability for people looking for apps and discoverability for people who make apps. The increased density of content coupled with the simplified navigation and faster experience overall makes it (almost) unsurprising that Handcraft got over 7000 new users in just under a week. While the first iteration of the store was a great starting point, this design really reflects Google thinking for itself and designing for its own problems. Now the question is how our signup rate will be affected as the store loses its freshness, and how engaged people who sign up for Handcraft through the store end up being.
You can see the new Web Store by visiting it in Chrome. Any other browser will still show you the old design.
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