Google+ updates. Simpler, more beautiful?

When it launched last year, Google’s social network quickly received an avalanche of signups – and with 170 million people now using Google+, it’s an interesting site that plenty of us visit. But how many of us during the course of the day use it as often as –or for as much time as – Facebook?

When it launched last year, Google's social network quickly received an avalanche of signups - and with 170 million people now using Google+, it's an interesting site that plenty of us visit. But how many of us during the course of the day use it as often as -or for as much time as - Facebook?

It's obvious that Google will be all too acutely aware of the competition. And even with the respectable user volume they have so far, there's still a distance to go before the search giant can equal Facebook in the social space.

Which is why the company's Senior Vice President, Vic Gundotra, last week announced some new Google+ design improvements on the official Google blog. Under the heading 'Toward a simpler, more beautiful Google' Gundotra takes us through the changes - from silky smooth new 'dynamic ribbon' navigation at the side (replacing the previous static bar at the top), to user profiles with much more visual impact.

A big plus for me as a user is the way they've made trending topics visible within my updates, which adds a more immediate feel and - not unlike Twitter's trending topics - is a reminder of the wider conversation taking place outside of your own circles.

Add in the fact that the pictures and video content now appear larger in your news feed, and suddenly Google+ is looking like a much more inviting place to be - whether that's to catch up on all the latest stuff or even take part in a hangout on the new dedicated live video page.