Slight Google Interface Refresh – Meh

I know quite a few of you out there are users of Google’sGoogle UK Logo web services such as Google Mail, Google Calendar and suchlike.  And as Google users, you’ve probably noticed that there has been an ever so slight interface refresh recently.  Sign in to Gmail for example, and you’ll see a revemped services menu in the top left hand corner.  This now links to more services than before.  Having had a look at these subtle changes, I’m really not sold.  There seems to be some mistakes and glaring omissions from this slight interface refresh, and it’s obvious from looking at just a small part of it.

Google Search Menu

I’ll cover the Google search changes separately, for now, I want to explore the new Google services links, because I’ve noticed something strange.  Presumably, the whole point of having this services menu at the top of Google pages is to provide a consistent way of navigating between the services you use.  Which is great.  I’m all for anything which makes it easier to navigate between Gmail, Gcal and suchlike.  Unfortunately, it’s not consistent and has been slapped together with very little thought given to how useful it could be.

Gmail Menu

The image above is taken from Gmail.  It has a handfull of links and a more button which expands to show some more links.  It’s like a dashboard from which you can access all of Google’s services.  Er, not quite.  See, the services linked to seem to be selected completely at random.  I’m a user of several of Google’s services, some are available in this menu, some are not.  For example, Google Reader appears but Google Notebook does not.  I use both, so why isn’t Google Notebook there?  I’m also not a user of Orkut, so why is that there?  I get that they may want to push some of their services to new users, but this doesn’t seem orchestrated enough to be a marketing ploy.  Interestingly, even though Google Reader is amongst the links, this is what you get when you actually visit the Google Reader service.

Google Reader Header

Notice something missing?  That’s right, there are no links in the header.  So while the common navigation links are designed to allow you to traverse Google’s services, it’s obvious that of you go to certain pages, they’ll be gone.  That’s going to cause some usability problems, with users losing the familiarity Google is trying to establish.   Even worse, by navigating through the links you see the navigation disappearing, reappearing and changing format.  Below is an example of the bar as seen in Google Scholar.

Google Scholar Menu

It’s quite baffling really.  At the very least you would have thought Google would make navigation consistent on the services that are linked to.  My biggest gripe, however, is that these links aren’t customisable.  I use Ad Words, Ad Sense and Analytics.  Bearing in mind advertising is how Google is funded, it seems strange to omit links to these services, especially when I’m signed up to them.  You may be thinking that it’s because the links are tailored more to the consumer, but they provide links to blogger, and almost all blogger pages have a Google ad on there somewhere.  This interface refresh, albeit minor, seems to be the latest in an ever growing line of strange Google interface decisions.  Like the new Image search and the decision not to include search in Google Reader, many people will be left scratching their heads over this one.