Use Bookmarks Bar for frequently-used websites.
Here is what you can do to never worry about any change Google throws at you on your browser.
Start using Bookmarks Toolbar for your application icons. Add your frequently used websites to specific bookmarks folder and don't rely on Google's default icons.
- Press Ctrl+Shift+b to show Bookmarks bar.
- Right-click on the grey area of the bookmarks bar and select Add folder.
- Go to your frequently used website and press Ctrl+d.
- From the drop-down folder menu, select the newly created folder. Click Done.
Here is how I have my folders defined. My frequently used websites like Gmail, Twitter etc, are all in these folders. When I wish to launch any, I click on the folder, and I click on the site. Two-clicks solution.
Use Extension to get rid of Google's clutter
I use Blank New Tab Extension. It works well and helps get rid of the clutter Google adds to your browser tabs. With this extension, your browser's new tab will always be blank.