Inconsistency at 26 Google Sites

Chris McEvoy has some good and thorough observations around the inconsistencies in Google’s menues. Even though the menus are extremely simple, they seem to differ on most of the 26 sites mentioned.

Below are Chris’ observations from his article A to z of Google Information Architecture:

Here are 26 different sets of menu items for different Google Services. There must be one Information Architect at Google who has got the determination to bring some consistency to this hodge-podge of menu items.

There is an attempt at being consistent in the menu designs, but someone needs to sit down a write a style guide. The Googlers can’t even agree on whether they should be using “Sign Out” or “Sign out“. The font sizes are almost the same. Apart from Analytics they all agree on the text colour. The only people using FAQ instead of Help are Alerts. AdSense use Log Out instead of Sign Out, and they put it before the Help item instead of after it.

The A to Z of Google Menu Options

My Account
Page Creator
Webmaster Tools

And you may have noticed the new blue menu list that has started to appear in the left hand side of some Google pages.


They haven’t even got the same entries. It is Mail or Gmail? Should it be more or all my services?

Is it so disorganised inside Google that they can’t even get these basic items right?

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9 Responses to “Inconsistency at 26 Google Sites”

  1. Håvard Pedersen Says:

    This has been irritating me for a long time, especially the blue menu list in the top left corner. Someone need to write a centralized mechanism for outputting these. Being able to custome these would’ve been nice.

  2. Tore Vesterby Says:

    Brilliant overview from Mr. McEvoy.

    As to the inconsistencies, I suppose they code very much like the Feds do in Snow Crash. In other words in small cells that have no idea what the other cells are doing. Quite like other conglomerates across the Atlantic.

  3. Emil Stenström Says:

    Hmm… You’ve started to copy people’s posts a lot Jesper. That table probably took at lot of work to compile, and even though you link and quote people won’t visit his site when you copy it like that. I say it’s work a real visit.

  4. Jesper Rønn-Jensen Says:

    I totally agree that Chris deserves credit for his relentless work, and I can follow your thought that he does not get the attention he deserves when people copy the entire content.

    Yesterday, when I saw Chris’ article, I knew immediately that I wanted to comment on it. And link to it. Also, fighting inconsistency is a subject I usually bring up on a daily basis in the projects I work on.

    I think it’s important to understand how started. Primarily, Thomas and I wanted to write stuff for ourselves to use. Next, we wanted to influence our co-workers indirectly. Third, we decided to do it in a format so that anybody — just like you — could add value to our notes.

    That’s why I primarily see the stuff I write (comment on, quote, copy, etc.) as a notebook for me.

    I remember as we started, Thomas and I decided not “just to quote” stuff. But actually (as a minimum) add our own thoughts to the content we linked to. When I’m looking back, I can see that recently, we’re linking to more stuff without adding our own thoughts.

    This still has a great value for me, as I can use it in my professional work, and I can refind the examples that make a difference.

    Another alternative I tried — but only for a very short period of time — was to publish a post with only links to interesting content. Thomas and I quickly agreed that it was not the kind of content we want on this blog.

    For now, I will resist the temptation to change or remove some of the quote in this blog post. But in the future, I’ll definitely make sure to add more to quoted content.

    You bring up another issue as well (formulated differently). Allow me to rephrase: When quoting, don’t quote so much, so there is nothing left to learn from the link.

    Thanks for keeping an eye out and raising the bar, Emil :)

  5. Jesper Rønn-Jensen Says:

    Emil: One more thing I almost forgot: Your site rocks! I really dig your good articles. Keep up the good work!

  6. Thomas Baekdal Says:

    I agree that Google could do a better job with consistency… but I think that the examples above are of minor importance.

    Much more serious is the story that it tells of how Google works behind the scenes. It illustrates that Google often “reinvents the wheel” and work as seperate units – rather than for a common strategic goal.

    Working like Google would be a disaster for most othe companies. But, since Google’s revenue almost solely comes from advertising – and since they do so well – they probably do not experience the lack of efficiency of not working together. They have no ressource shortage in the form that they can easially add whatever ressources they need without any significant financial impact.

  7. Emil Stenström Says:

    Jesper Rønn-Jensen: Thanks for your thorough answer! It makes me an even more dedicated reader.

    I do see what you mean and I somehow find it nice not to have to click around to find stuff. As you said it does feel a little bad though, the least we could do is give good articles our visits. “More content than quotes” is a good rule I think.

    About my site, I haven’t posted for a while… I’m not sure that’s any better than quoting too much :)

  8. Jesper Rønn-Jensen Says:

    Somewhat related article on “4 Principles of Effective Navigation for the Web”, where some of the google menus are used as example.