Thursday, October 3, 2013

Google Does Away with The Black Bar

It was in June 2011 that Google introduced its black navigation bar through which users could access its various services. The "black bar", as it came to be known, was not universally popular. There were those who complained about its colour and others who complained about the space it occupied. Speaking for myself, I numbered among those who liked "the black bar". I liked its colour and I really can't understand why space should matter with the resolutions of desktop screens these days (this is not the Nineties). Regardless of whether one liked the black bar or not, when Google attempted to replace the black bar with a small drop down menu in December 2011 there were so many complaints that Google had to restore the black bar. Now it seems that history could be repeating itself.

This week Google replaced the familiar black bar with what some have called a "new navigation bar", but most people I know are calling a "grid". I believe its official name is the "App Launcher." Regardless, there are an array of squares in a pattern in the upper right hand of Google pages on which one clicks for a drop down menu to access Google's various services. Now I have encountered a few people who like this change. They think the grid takes up less space than the black bar and they think  it is more aesthetically pleasing. I know yet others who are indifferent to both the black bar and the grid. I know even more people, including myself, who hate the grid and really want the black bar back.

I have a few reasons for hating this new Google "app launcher", not the least of which is that it is much less efficient than the old black bar. Quite simply, it takes more clicks to get to the Google services I use. Using the old Google black bar I could reach YouTube with one click and Blogger with two clicks. Now I have to click on this array of squares to access a drop down menu to get to Youtube--a total of two clicks. To get to Blogger I have to click the array of squares, then click "more" at the bottom of the box, and then click on Blogger--a total of three clicks.

Of course, the fact that it takes more clicks to get to the services I use is directly related to my other major complaint about the new "App Launcher'. Quite simply, it does not take into account the Google services I use the most. Beside the array of boxes are links to Google+, Gmail, and Images. I do not use Gmail, so it is useless to even have the link there. To reach YouTube or Blogger,  services I actually use, I have to open the drop down menu. If they absolutely had to do away with the black bar (and I don't think they did), it would have been nice if they had taken into account the services we use the most (one would think Google would have access to that information) or given us the ability to customise the menu.

Another, admittedly minor objection I have to the "app launcher" is, well, it's ugly. I much preferred the sleek black bar to this grey array of squares on a white background. What is more, the drop down menu isn't particularly pretty either. It consists of icons that seem rather too large to me. I just find the whole thing very unattractive.

Of course, I know many who hated the old black bar complained about the space it occupied. Now why anyone would complain about space in a day and age when computer monitors have resolutions like  1366×768 and 1280x1024 I don't know. That having been said, there are times when this new "app launcher" occupies more space on the screen than the black bar. The black bar was simply a thin band at the top of the screen. When the app launcher is open it occupies a good part of the right side of one's screen, much more than the black bar.  If one has to go to a service not listed in the upper part of the box, then one has to click "more" and as a result the box opens up to occupy even more of the screen. It seems to me that if one is concerned about screen "real estate", then, they would actually want the black bar back!

For now my solution to the problem of this new Google grid has been to simply place Blogger and YouTube on my bookmark bar on Firefox. I hardly think this is what Google necessarily wanted and I certainly don't find it desirable either (I usually keep the bookmark bar hidden--okay, I guess I am a little concerned about screen space). Unfortunately, it seems that it will have to do until such time as Google restores the black bar (a distinct possibility given the amount of hatred directed at the new grid) or they make the "App Launcher" customisable.


steph wanamaker said...

i feel the same way 2 or 3 clicks to get to everything and i dont care about space as much as i care about convenience I had to place any communities I want to access on my bookmark bar as my communities tab is useless

jim marquis said...

I'm with you. I finally just put three Google options (search, images and news)on my favorites column.