Google Images: a Minor Navigation Hiccup

Monday, March 24, 2008

When I'm trying to find a particular image or graphic, my first stop is always Google Images ( It's fast, easy, and accessible. I don't have to sign in and they don't admonish me to register:

On the whole, it's a great service, implemented with the robustness and simplicity we've come to expect from Google. But there's a subtle flaw in the Google Images navigation:

As you can see if your browser supports animated GIFs, the position of the Google navigation bar shifts across different pages of results - an admittedly minor detail, but one that wreaks havoc with the user's ability to mindlessly click through multiple pages of results by forcing him to frequently reposition the mouse.

It turns the following user interaction:

  1. Locate the Next button.
  2. Position the mouse over the Next button.
  3. Click the Next button, and scan the results.
  4. Mindlessly repeat step 3 until the desired image is found.

Into this:

  1. Locate the Next button.
  2. Position the mouse over the Next button.
  3. Click the Next button, and scan the results.
  4. Mindlessly repeat step 3, until the desired image is found.
  5. Oops, the button moved, can't do that.
  6. Position the mouse over the next button.
  7. Click the Next button.
  8. Carefully repeat steps 6 and 7 until desired image is found.

Maybe I'm making a mountain out of a molehill here, but it seems to me that scrolling through multiple pages of results is a key user interaction for a company like Google. So the question has to be asked: why not position the Navigation bar absolutely, such that it's location doesn't shift?

Better yet, why not position the Navigation bar at the top of the page, next to all the other Search machinery? Best of all, why not place a Navigation bar in both locations?

I'm not exactly holding my breath for an answer. I'll just repeat my mantra: allow users to click mindlessly. Encourage users to click mindlessly. Make it easy for users to click mindlessly. And hope that somebody at Google Inc. hears me.

Tags: Google, Google Images, search, paging

9 comment(s)


you are so damned right!

I am so with you... this has annoyed me on many occasions.

Amen, amen. I've been trying to find a place where I can complain about this. Even worse is that now other web sites are duplicating Google Images navigation mess at the bottom. Fix this Google! Place the navigation on the top where it doesn't move and I don't have to scroll around!

I'm with you 100%! What an incredibly egregious error. Worse yet, I haven't found an alternate navigation method. Ctrl-PgDn or somesuch thing seems obvious to me. Is that asking too much??

I can see the similarities to another case. If you have been using Facebook for years, you've noticed that the various versions might not actually improve functionality. For example, now you need to open a menu and go to the 'logout' button instead of just clicking on the 'logout' button. I think the idea might be economic in nature. The profit of Google and Facebook comes from selling ads. Marketers pay to put their ads on the Google or Facebook page based on how likely people are to see these ads. One reason why Google or Facebook might be interested in making us 'work' more to use their site is because this takes more time and thus marketers can pay Google and Facebook more money. I don't think this is actually a good idea, I just think it might be driving these seemingly bad decisions on the part of usually smart companies.

thanks for your sharing so good news, it is really useful for me.

This is so true. There are many hiccups, all the time.

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