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I am talking about this button:

enter image description here

The plus sign that used to be on that button has been removed in recent versions.

I am very intrigued as to why they might have found it convenient.

I'm a google-chrome user since a long time, so the change basically doesn't affect me at all, since I know what it is for perfectly and mainly use the Ctrl+T shortcut.

My main concern is for new users, after all it is an explanation-less button, is that good at all? It also might make it harder to see.

I'm sure Google doesn't take UX lightly and for better or for worse, they have put a lot of though in this and chose to remove the "+" sign, I just don't see how it could be an improvement.

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Now that I know to which plus @Rahul was refering, I now strongly feel that the removal shouldn't have been done. –  Dan D. Feb 14 '12 at 0:52
    
Note that because the change New tab icon drop only replaced png images and affected no code, it would be easy to revert. Issue for complaints –  Dan D. Mar 4 '12 at 23:48
    
But after further investigation, I found that the source PSD files from which the PNG images were generated are not included in the chromium source. –  Dan D. Mar 31 '12 at 16:13
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4 Answers 4

Our admin [Rahul] said that his contact on the Google Chrome team had told him, "because tests indicated it was necessary".

Knowing how much testing happens at Google before changes are rolled out, such a response isn't surprising. However, it's not unheard of them to reverse the decision based on negative real-world feedback. So, it might return in a future release.

Added
I came across a nearly identical question on Quora where an answer linked to the official Chrome support forum where, in turn, a Google employee responded with the following:

We made this change in the spirit of a cleaner and neater user interface (UI), which has been one of Chrome's guiding principles. However, we understand that this may cause some visibility issues on certain themes, and we'll look into that.

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Thanks for the reply, it is a pity that we can't get a hold of the test or the results. –  Trufa Feb 13 '12 at 20:38
    
A similar thing can be seen with Windows and the Start button, which for a long time prominently displayed the word »Start«, but eventually they removed the text, opting for just the icon and even more recently, even removed the button altogether (and brought it back again). –  Joey Apr 24 at 9:38
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I can see a reason - but I don't know if it's the reason. Probably nothing to do with it. But I gotta tell a story to get to round my reason:

A couple of months ago I compared the tab bars in detail on the big five browsers to see how much space each one allocated to the text part of the tabs. I looked at the gaps between tabs, the gaps within tabs, the behaviour of the favicons, the use of ellipses ( or equivalent ) and the use of the close tab icons amongst other things.

What prompted me to do this? I was a Chrome user, I'd got into the habit of opening more and more new tabs. With every new tab, the amount of visible text on each tab reduces. But I wanted to see whether any of the browsers allocated more space to the tab text as you open more and more tabs.

Some of the big five have configuration options that improve their behaviour, but I was looking at out-of-the-box behaviour. And as it happened Chrome came out the worst - by far.

For example here's Chrome when things get real tight:

enter image description here

and here's Opera

enter image description here

Now ok, so I don't actually let my tabs get that small, but nevertheless Chrome does not prioritise text (or favicons) as much as the other browsers seem to.

So Chrome was starting to annoy me - to the point that I actually switched to using Opera, since it's behaviour with smaller tabs impressed me. [Yeah - easier to change browser than to change my own behaviour, right?]

But's let's take a step back - is it really Chrome's fault I got to be in this place. Well maybe a it, but really it's my own fault that I got into this habit of opening a new tab every time I wanted something new. It seemed easier to do this than examine the tabs I had and decide which one to reuse. [Every now and then I'd get exasperated and close the lot and start again.]

Instinctively I'd say I need a tab management system, but I'm unconvinced - I don't want the baggage of having to 'manage' my tabs, I just want to go to web pages. Tab management systems, in my mind, are like new fangled to-do apps where you spend more time using your to-do app than you do actually do-ing stuff. Result - it doesn't get used.

So coming back to the New Tab button. My theory is that there's something about Chrome that makes it oh-so-easy to open more and more tabs. But since Chrome is one of the worst browsers in terms of handling smaller tabs, let's just suppose that actually Chrome does not want users to push the New Tab button as much as it has in the past.

If Chrome makes it less instinctive to just keep banging that 'New Tab' button, then people will open fewer tab pages, show less tabs, encourage more re-use of tabs, and ultimately provide a simpler and better experience.

When you have one or two tabs open, the 'New Tab' button is by definition easier to see, quite discoverable, and easy to explore. When you have many tabs open, the button is less prominent and therefore less easy to be pressed instinctively.

And that's why I think the button is blank and anonymous - they just don't want you to use it so much - in case it makes you jump ship to another browser - like I did.


Internet Explorer 9 does not adorn its 'New Tab' button either, but they do show icon and tooltips on hover.

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By the time it gets really tight in the tab bar, it really means you should create a new window and split the tabs up into them. Well, in Chrome I'm a big user of tabs (I had 269 tabs open in 37 windows) but my new tabs come from the context menu's open in tab_ and not from the _new tab button and so the removal of this button's label will in no way reduce the number of tabs I use. thus I see the removal of the new tab button's label as silly. Also I have to start Chrome with my network disabled to prevent it from loading all the tabs I have open and using up all memory and paging. –  Dan D. Feb 14 '12 at 1:06
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Chrome's placement of open in new tab as the first option on the context menu makes activating it easy because the action involves only option click which is even faster than using the middle mouse button. (note that the mouse has two named buttons select and option where they are commonly left and right respectfully.) And Chrome can open a new tab and close a tab so quickly that most of the time I use the tab list as a queue and use open in new tab to place pages into it. –  Dan D. Feb 14 '12 at 1:20
    
@DanD. Ctrl+Left click on a link (or bookmark) also opens it in a new tab, but I often open a 'fresh' tab to start a new google search without coming via a link, although I do use the same queue/stacking mechanism as well. –  Roger Attrill Feb 14 '12 at 1:55
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Good theory, although if they did this to get people to open fewer tabs, I don't think it was to prevent the extreme situation you're describing but rather to just prevent people from getting lost in their ~10 tabs. I know my parents do - a single-tab browser would actually be much easier for them to use. –  Rahul Feb 14 '12 at 14:37
    
Interesting, thanks for the perspective! –  Trufa Feb 14 '12 at 20:34
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Its also rumored that Google removed the plus symbol from Chrome to avoid any confusions with Google plus . ( not proved )

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Is there at least some "big" tech site that is saying that that may be the reason? –  Trufa Feb 22 '12 at 19:34
    
I read it hear , code.google.com/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=98264 –  Pratheep ch Feb 22 '12 at 21:11
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The settled mental model of the user at interaction with browsers is a best reason. Most of modern browsers are tab-based, and all of them use an identical principle of tab addition with mouse or touch controller - the plus icon has ceased to be necessary.

Much more interesting the added possibility of search into a website after pressing Tab while you type an url address in address bar.

Type your addressm --> Tab --> Search into ux.stackexchange.com

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The searching has been around since the first version of Chrome if I recall correctly. Anyway, with this argument most of the buttons could be removed of their labels, but it just makes it more difficult for beginners and it is not obtrusive for power-users. –  Trufa Feb 22 '12 at 21:21
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