google’s main nav bar is messed up

March 23rd, 2008

Can someone explain this to me? When you’re on the main page of Google, at the top, there’s this navigational menu:

…but when you go into Gmail or any of the other “Google Apps,” it’s:

And don’t even get me started about the “More” dropdown — from the main page, it looks like this:

…but in Gmail, it looks like this:

…this is messed up, right? My feeling has always been that the First Rule of Navigational User Interface Elements Club is that navigational user interface elements should not move around — they should be kept completely consistent throughout a site. The only thing I can fathom is that Google is trying to group “like with like,” i.e. if you like Gmail you’ll love Reader, etc., and once you’re in the pantheon of Google products you’ll use the (also inconsistently implemented) “Search the Web” button available there instead popping back out to the main page. Also: the nav bars seem to be sorted alphabetically, for what that’s worth, which is not much.

One of the nice things the Mac OS X Dock has is a degree of predictability: the user can place their favorite apps in the Dock in order from left to right and be fairly sure the next time they look, the apps will be there, in order, where they put them — sometimes a little larger, sometimes a little smaller, but there. Contrast this with the Windows Start Menu, which I swear to God sometimes changes content and position while I’m in the middle of clicking around in it. Consistency is important, especially as Google moves to position their product line as a full suite of apps, and a consistent user interface is way more useful and important than a tangential marketing opportunity.

~Jeff

6 Responses to “google’s main nav bar is messed up”

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  4. Ben says:

    I always thought it did that on purpose… showing me the things I could do while “logged in” to Google versus the things I could do while browsing anonymously. It *is* highly disconcerting to have those menus move around, regardless of intention. I think eBay’s interface is just as disorganized… it’s as if some portions got lots of development attention while others have remained unchanged since it’s inception.

  5. Jeff says:

    Aha! I had not considered the “logged-in v. not-logged-in” dichotomy there. Good eye.

    But still messed up.

  6. Jeff says:

    UPDATE: “Gmail” requires a login, so, there’s that. At this point I think the items on the main nav are “Things Marisa Meyers Likes.”