Google : Searching for links

Bottom-up navigation upsets usability.

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The Site

Google, US-based online search and technology giant, weakens the usability of its corporate web pages by making primary navigation harder to find. Google has recently introduced a rich footer in an attempt to integrate what was once a highly fragmented corporate web presence. The footer contains links to the landing pages of primary sections (Company, News, Jobs, Investor Relations) that were once completely separate sites with no common navigation system – as well as links to Contact us and second-tier sections. The positioning of the primary navigation menu in the footer rather than at the top of pages means that visitors must scroll down pages to locate it.

The Takeaway

Google’s introduction of a common set of primary navigation links across all its corporate pages significantly improves their usability. Before they were introduced, it was extremely difficult, for example, to travel from Investor Relations pages to News pages. However, by choosing an unconventional location for this menu – one that is not visible without scrolling – Google risks frustrating users looking for a quick and easy-to-find set of tools for moving between corporate sections. The problem is exacerbated on the home page by the fact that there are in-text links to secondary sub-sections of the site higher up the screen than the primary links. This means users are invited to jump to a deep part of the site before they have had a chance to consider all the navigation options available to them. Google may pride itself in developing unique products and services but, when it comes to its use of primary navigation, it would be more successful if it followed the crowd.
First published 22 May, 2012
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