Yes – design of the search engine interface changes frequently – and with Google, it seems weekly. And no two identical queries will return the same results. Greg Notess looks at this closely – port of the reason is that Google and Bing are constantly experimenting and tweaking.
Search Engine Interfaces: Confronting Consistent Inconsistency in the September/October issue of Online Searcher.
Google does more than 5000 experiments in a year. No wonder I’m constantly wondering where to find something – or if it even still exists.
How much of this type of new design will still be in effect by next year is anyone’s guess. It certainly creates a challenge for teachers who plan on showing features (now defunct) such as Google’s tilde for related terms (Google originally called it synonym searching) or search tools for translated pages, similar pages, and pages with images. Since there is rarely any advance notice, you can plan a lesson on such features only to see Google remove those options right before or after the training session. But it is also a teachable opportunity to remind others that features and services may or may not continue to be available. The recent demise of popular services such as Google Reader, iGoogle, and the + symbol for exact searching are good examples of this.
Smaller engines change less frequently but a change can still be dramatic – such as Blekko’s redesign in May 2013 – also described by Notess.
Also noted – Yahoo’s new design in the US – somewhat minimalist, I think – kind of design that makes one try to remember what it had before.