Google Scraps Classic Navigation Bar for Flashy Menu

By Joshua Cohan

Nov 30, 2011 6:46am

The way we use Google and its long list of products is about to change. The company announced Tuesday that it will retire its classic navigation bar — a staple on the website in some form since 2001 — in exchange for a flashy new menu, in an effort to streamline the user experience.

“Instead of the horizontal black bar at the top of the page, you’ll now find links to your services in a new drop-down Google menu nested under the Google logo,” developers announced Tuesday on the company’s blog.

“Google menu opens on rollover, has links from your navigation bar and a whole lot more, with plenty of flexibility for the future,” a video demonstrating the new navigation menu explains.

Dating back to late 2001, the Google bar sat for years directly above the search field and initially gave us three new ways to explore the Internet right from Google’s homepage: by searching images, groups and the site’s web directory.

But as the Mountain View, Calif.-based company expanded, the bar became crowded with even more search options such as Video and News, and products like Gmail, Calendar, Documents, and Reader added to the mix. In 2007, Google responded by relocating the bar to the top of the page, and adding to it a drop-down menu with additional navigation options.

Six months ago, the search giant made another distinct change; it turned the navigation bar black and anchored it to the top of the screen, making it available across Google’s array of products.

But on Tuesday, Google admitted that “it’s time to unify, simplify and say goodbye to navigation bar,” a voice in the video says, conceding that its old bar simply “takes up precious space on your screen.”

“We’re now ready for the next stage of our redesign,” Google wrote on its blog, touting the new drop-down menu as a feature that will allow users “to navigate quickly between our services, as well as share the right stuff with the right people easily on Google+.”

It was not immediately clear when users would begin to see the change, the latest in a string of aesthetic alterations to Google’s historically-simplistic design.

“The way people use and experience the web is evolving,” Google creative director Chris Wiggins wrote back in June, “and our goal is to give you a more seamless and consistent online experience—one that works no matter which Google product you’re using or what device you’re using it on.”

The company also announced Tuesday the rollout of a new location-based Maps feature for Android devices that allows users to navigate indoor attractions such as malls, retail stores and airports.

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