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Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Google Experiments with Dropdown Navigation

What do you do when you get too many items for a visitor to choose from? You put them in a combo-box, so they will only expand when clicked on. And now it seems that’s just what Google experiments with doing for its homepage. Currently, they display several links on top of the search box – Web, Images, Groups, News, Froogle, Local and More. Whenever a service is getting really popular, it will be added to the few links (like recently, “Local”) – and whenever a service service’s fame sinks, it will be kicked out of the list (like it happened with the Google Directory).

Now above you can see the screen I was presented with this today. I made a screenshot because I wasn’t sure this navigation type would last, and indeed it was gone after I signed out of my Google Account (and signed back in). Below is the select box that would open:

The choices were Web, Images, News, Blogs, Groups, Froogle, Local, Scholar, Books and Video. New in this list compared to the current link-style navigation are Blogs, Scholar, Books and Video. (I assume Google wouldn’t add Google Video to the list unless they plan to expand their video service to cover web videos as well, and not just user-uploaded ones – this may be another sign a real Google Video is coming soon.)

Other changes on the Google homepage in this experimental version I saw: Language tools were missing, and there was a new footer link titled “All Google Products.” And the result page changed as well; see below:

Technically, this new approach takes more clicks... you have to enter the keyword, then click on the select box to make the selection, then click on search. However, in the current Google homepage it is not really clear that you can enter something, and then click on the links above the search box and have Google search for what you entered (which is indeed what happens, unless you have JavaScript disabled). The new approach makes this much more clear. Plus, it scales a little better to more search types, and it also helps to make the Google page even more uncluttered by removing many of the links.


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