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November 22, 2007

On Google's Navigational Bar

Google's current navigation bar was added in May as a solution for the growing list of Google products that lacked visibility and were difficult to find. The bar added a drop-down that includes less popular services like Reader and Patent Search, while replacing the famous More page. It was placed at the top of the page, detaching it from the search box, as you can see in the screenshot below.

Google's bar has two configurations that depend on the context:
* a search mode (visible in most services and on the homepage) - shows the most important search services
* an apps mode (you can see it in Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Picasa Web and Groups) - shows the most popular web apps for communication and collaboration

Because the space is limited, Google can't afford to include too many links, so here's the structure of a bar:
- 5 links that point to the most important services of the current mode (search or apps). If the active service is included among those services, the link is replaced with a bold text.
- a transitional link to the most popular service of the inactive configuration (Web search or Gmail).
- a drop-down that lists the other 14 services alphabetically.

If the services don't have descriptive names, the bar includes alternative titles: "Photos" for Picasa Web Albums and "Documents" for Google Docs.

It's interesting to note that Google includes 11 search services, 8 apps and Google Labs (it's not clear whether Google Groups is more important for search or for its community features).

While Google's selection is mostly based on the popularity of its services, users may want to see different configurations. Let's say my favorite Google services are: Blog search, Scholar, Blogger, Google Reader, YouTube and Google Project Hosting. That means I always have to click on the "more" link or even to search for YouTube and Project Hosting, because they're not included.

What I'd like to see is an option to choose the services that are displayed in the navigation bar and a task-oriented search box that will look like the Quick Search Box from Google Desktop and is already partially implemented at Google Code. The search box should have auto-complete and should let you search for product names, descriptions and important tasks for each service. For example, you could enter: [compose mail] or [contacts] for Gmail, [create event] or [agenda] for Calendar, [upload document] for Google Docs, [referrals] or [stats] for Analytics etc. The results should prioritize the services you used the most and Google should send you directly to the right page (Gmail's contact page, for example).

To facilitate the discovery of features, the task-based search box could be added to each service and act as a humanized command line that doesn't require you to know parameters and command names.


  1. a thing i really want is that the more link in the new pull-down menu should also have the "more" link of the old google interface along with the other 14. i really dont understand why it is not suppose i want to go to google pack,then?

  2. If we're logging in to our Google Accounts, why can't they keep track of which apps we're using the most and dynamically change the menu accordingly? (Is that too much like Window's newer start menus?)

  3. Are you going to mention the fact that "Video" has been replaced with "Products"?

  4. I totally agree with Robert. I am a heavy user of Google Notebook, which is nowhere to be seen (links or «more» dropdown).
    Google has made some updates to Notebook (tags, for example), but they still treat it like the poor cousin of Google Docs.

  5. i wonder why i dont have Google's Navigational Bar?

    it look like

  6. interesting... is there any way to override this google's nav bar with user's own? any extension to Fx, Greasemonkey script or some user CSS?

    any iseas?

  7. Use the GUtil! add-on for firefox. Problem solved! - Chris Preen

  8. To seferzade:
    You didn't have have Google's Navigational Bar because it's only availble in English.

  9. << Are you going to mention the fact that "Video" has been replaced with "Products"? >>

    I intentionally didn't write about this.

    << Google has made some updates to Notebook (tags, for example), but they still treat it like the poor cousin of Google Docs. >>

    That's true, but some code from Google Docs suggests that Notebook will be added to the package. Also don't forget that Google links to a mini-notebook at the top of every search results page ("My notebooks").

    << interesting... is there any way to override this google's nav bar with user's own? >>

    There are some Greasemonkey scrips:
    * More links - adds more services to the drop-down
    * Customize Google's links (this doesn't work anymore, but you can try to fix the code)

  10. the comment i made has now been implemented in some country specific sites...if u check then u can find a "even more" link under the more link drop down

  11. Google should make a global navigational bar for interface consistency. Some apps have it, others change the options and a few apps don't have it at all! I hate clicking around to find the "My Account" link. And considering Google's so good at accumulating data, it would be nice to see the application links listed by frequency of use.