For Such Smart Tools, GoogleApps Have Pretty Stupid Menus

I am a die hard Google junkie. For more than 2 years, iGoogle has been home on every computer I use, while others clamor about their RSS tools, I just dig and dig Google reader, Gmail is my hub for all my non-twitter communication ;-) and I put all my time into Google calendar.

Yet, I have a gripe. It’s the menus that are supposed to make it easy to be moving around my Googlespace. For the longest time, there were no menus in Google Reader. Then a few weeks ago, Reader just disappeared from all menus.

But lately I am just looking at these menus, static, and saying, “Boy are you dumb.” Let’s say I start in Gmail…


I have top links to Calendar, Documents, Photos, Reader, and Web. Ok, I use all of these regularly except Photos. Five out of six is good. So I go to Calendar:


Okay, same choices, the active one changes, not too bad. It makes sense. But now if I look up something on Google Maps:


Huh, now my top choices are Web, Images, News, Shopping, and Gmail. Woah. I ony use 2 of thee regularly — and get the same 2 out of 6 menus on my iGoogle:


These 4 menu choices are useless appendages on my Google Experience, as functional as a third nipple (well that may not be the best metaphor, but it is fun to write). And worse, on a UI perspective, they change with different GoogleApps, which is bad design form

If GoogleApps were smart, they would know the apps I use the most, and present them to me on the top all the time, in consistent places, and provide the lesser used ones in the drop list under “more”.

And if they could not manage “smart”, they could be “nice” or “customized” meaning my Google Preferences would allow me to identify the 6 GoogleApps I use the most to have them appear on the top menu.

Demand more from your interface, otherwise you get Mr Clippy.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. I’m here to play the devil’s advocate.

    From Google’s view, I think they seperate apps from search: search is their bread and butter, while apps are those cool little projects (which I love) off to the side. Inherintly, they assume users will seperate these which sort of makes sense. When I am in Gmail, it makes plenty of sense for me to want to jump to Google Calendar. Meanwhile, when I am doing a search (which both Maps and iGoogle are) it would make sense to give me links to other search services (with the query already filled in).

  2. Well yes, but I fail to see your DA role. My observation is that Google makes decisions which menus items to give me and they are static hard coded. I dont use shopping, I dont use news all that much.

    it would not take too much code effort to make menus a user setting or to do something more clever. Heck even MS bloatware know I use some menu items more often than others.

    All I content is that this interface, small issue it really is on the scale of thing, is not user-centric.

  3. I’m also a self professed Google hack. I’ve been expecting for the better part of a year (since the JotSpot acquisition) tools from Google more easily capable of supporting an online classroom space. My current frustration with Google is making “Sites” available only through Google Apps for domains rather than as a standalone tool.


  4. Maybe, Teemu, but that’s more or less a hack not the point- its about software makers, content designers thinking first about the people who use their efforts. Its a mindset that ought to permeate everything.

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