New Google Bar Hides Navigation, Showcases Google+

The new Google bar: minus the links, plus the +

Google is rolling out an updated look for the “Google bar” that runs along the top of your screen on all of the company’s various web services.

As with most Google interface changes, this one seems to be rolling out incrementally. If you’d like to see it for yourself right now, the Google Operating System blog has instructions on how you can edit your browser’s Google cookie and trigger the revamped design.

The new Google bar dispenses with the black bar that currently runs along the top of most Google pages and provides links to Google’s frequently used services like Web Search, Maps, News and Gmail. If you’re logged into Google the old bar also lists your user info on the right and offers links to various account settings.

The links to Gmail and the rest of Google’s services have been stripped out of the new Google bar. Instead of a list at the top of the page they’re now buried under a drop-down menu attached to Google’s logo, though Google’s help page notes that on the main Google homepage “the Google bar’s product menu may be expanded.” In other words, Google’s not entirely confident that the new drop-down menu is a good idea. Given that the only clue there’s a drop-down menu in the logo is a tiny arrow to the right of the “e”, the auto-expanded menu for the homepage is probably a good idea.

As part of the company’s effort to inject its nascent Google+ social network into the rest of its services, Google+ gets top billing in the new Google bar. Your general Google account info is still located on the right, but now links up with your Google+ account and adds a Google+ share button. If you haven’t yet set up a Google+ account you’ll see the old account info along with a new link suggesting you join Google+.

Along with the Google+ share button there’s also a new notifications icon that lets you know whenever there’s some activity on your Google+ account. When someone adds you to a circle, posts a comment in your stream, or shares something directly with you, the new notifications badge will let you know.

The new Google bar looks a bit cleaner, but the drop-down menu is definitely a step backward for anyone frequently switching between services. It’s also curious to hear Google talking about the old Google bar taking up “precious space” when the company just recently added an incredible amount of whitespace and padding to nearly all of its pages.

If you’re not seeing the new interface just yet, here’s Google’s promo video showcasing the new Google bar: