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On Google's search page there is a visible vertical scroll bar even when it is not necessary. This can be avoided by deleting the following style from body selector

overflow-y: scroll;

When this is done, there is no vertical scroll bar on default and when the height of browser window is not enough to display entire content, vertical scroll bar appears. Since Google is known for their obsession with minimalism on their search page, why aren't they doing this?

I tested this behavior on Chromium 18 (ubuntu), Firefox 13 (ubuntu) and Internet Explorer 8 (winxp).

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Normally I would've guessed that they want to avoid horizontal shifting that would occur when the page gets more content and scrollbar appears. The thing is, the way elements are placed in the page, the shifting really does not have much of an effect. Conclusion: Beats me. –  Joonas Aug 27 '12 at 12:08
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Another thought: minimialism isn't just less things, it's less elements that could take attention. You could argue that an unusual empty space becoming a scrollbar is more of a distraction than a redundant scrollbar, since the scrollbar is part of the furniture, something people expect, are used to and filter out. –  user568458 Aug 27 '12 at 14:37
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Re the horizontal shift theory: google's autocomplete options used to appear on the main Google page: this could have caused a scrollbar to appear making the centre-aligned logo jump jarringly to the side. It's possible they made the change then for that reason, and kept it the way it is for the other reason (or inertia). –  user568458 Aug 27 '12 at 14:40
    
@Joonas I agree, but there doesn't seem to be any another point in this. I guess Google made the trade off as user568458 explained and went with the default visible scrollbar. –  refik Aug 28 '12 at 5:50
    
@user568458 I think your first argument explains it well. –  refik Aug 28 '12 at 5:52

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Joonas nailed it in the first comment. All except his concolusion: "Beats me".

True, small horizontal the shift isn't much, but google isn't going to let your browser mess with it's aesthetic. Not even a little. In fact, if play with your window size on their main page, you'll find some layout shifting does happen, but only when they want it to, and the shifting is equally divided between the right and left margins so it is less noticeable.

Horizontal shift theory resources

http://css-tricks.com/snippets/css/force-vertical-scrollbar/

http://www.websitecamp.com/css-code-to-force-browser-to-always-show-vertical-scrollbar

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The horizontal shift has the potential to be quite distracting when using "Google Instant" feature, which shows search results as you type them. If your browser was open to a certain height, it could constantly show, hide, and show the scroll bar as the results grew and shrunk just a little bit. –  thomasrutter Aug 28 '12 at 7:26

The scrollbar doesn't appear on Mac + Chrome 21. Looks like something they've done to make the search results appear to be more responsive & quick.

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