Google has announced that Hangouts, the one standout feature of Google+, is getting a revamp. Besides the visual redesign, which brings it in line with the new Google design ideas, there are a few tweaks as well.
For one, the actual video, the main one, is now bigger to better emphasize the content. Second, the screensharing feature, which was treated as experimental so far, is now part of the regular Hangouts for everyone to use.
"When we launched Hangouts with Extras last September, we wanted to test new features and get feedback from users," Google+ user experience designer, Christopher Johnson wrote
"We’ve learned a lot over the past few months, and today we’re rolling out a new Hangouts look and feel that incorporates some of the 'extras,' and better reflects Google’s overall design," he said.
He detailed the two big changes in this update: "Screensharing: share what’s on your computer screen with everyone in the hangout. This is the first of many extras we’re graduating to Hangouts proper."
"Bigger video: we’ve put more emphasis on the live video itself by optimizing white space and other screen elements," was the second big change.
Hangouts is the must-have Google+ feature, the one thing that no one else can match, at least not for free. The visual refresh is welcomed, since the Hangouts user interface didn't really match that of Google+ or other Google sites. The new look should make it feel more like a part of the site rather than something bolted on.
The redesign also offered the opportunity of making the main video window bigger, so whoever has center stage fills more of the screen. The video is why you're using the page after all, the controls are secondary and the smaller thumbnail video windows only need to be big enough to enable users to see what everyone else is doing.
Hangouts now also incorporates screensharing enabled by default. The feature comes in really handy in a number of occasions, from doing tech support for your family, to showing off your latest project while it is still a work in progress.