Google’s Black Bar & New Look

Categories Articles, Web Design

This is a guest post by Zach Katkin – entrepreneur, web developer, designer and writer – co-founder of . Additionally Zach also owns a number of web properties including, a resource for Small Business Software News including Basecamp Project Management.

If you’re like me you’re a power user – on the net constantly – you have an account on every sharing and social site, and you jump at the latest technologies – even if they DO flop and they are sometimes less than useful.

Well, over the last couple of weeks Google has slowly been revealing their new design, and it’s mysteriously been marked by Google’s new black bar. If you’ve been following the news Google has made an unbelievable amount of changes and announcements over the last couple of days. Google first released information on their “Facebook Killer” social network called the Google+ project.

Then just hours later, the roll out of the new design was announced and all of this just days ago.

Android is the dominant phone operating system,  chrome is fast becoming the most popular browser, completely destroys the competition in search – as always Google has been hard innovating and creating new projects and implementing changes.

Back to the black bar – for those of us with Google accounts, the bar is not of much note, it’s been around for years. But, only recently did it switch to black, and really begin to pop.

What is Google’s Black Bar?

Google’s new black bar is simply a new design for the Google interface as a whole, the black bar being the common denominator among many, if not all, google services.  Take a look at the shot I just took:

Google Black Bar

Simple, elegant, exactly what a good design update should be. I suspect it’s prominence and the new contrast the dark color adds will also help introduce Google’s myriad of services to a whole new audience – as they realize – what that MORE drop down is for!

Google’s New Interface – First Impressions

I’m a HUGE fan of Google’s new interface. I’m not sure if it’s been rolled out throughout the US and the rest of the world at this time, and I’ve noticed a rollout of services over the last few days (starting with the black bar, continuing with a complete overhaul of Maps, and finally seeing Google’s completely redesigned home and search interface).

I’ve wanted to see a complete overhaul since the days of me first stumbling up the talented designer Andy Rutledge and his ideas on Google Redux – a complete design overhaul of Google. Over the years Google has made modest changes, mostly as new features required. As a web designer myself I do understand that sometimes, it’s best to leave well-enough alone, until such time that features and tools have been locked in. Ofcourse this is also a dangerous trap as any website, application, or giant brand – like all of Google and it’s services – are ever-evolving.

With that said however I think now is the perfect time to overhaul the design, creating a unified theme and optimizing the site for speed and simplicity. Where as other sites like Yahoo and Bing are at best overly colored and a reminder of “the old web” and at worst, horribly overburdened with content and imagery that distract from a single purpose – Google’s new interface(s) streamline a visitor’s distractions, keeping single goals in mind – all across different services.

Google Maps New Interface

Although mostly cosmetic additional updates including instant search (without having to select the search field on Google’s homepage ( make searching EVEN quicker – how quick can this get? I did hear a Google researcher say his ultimate goal was to have you be walking around and simply utter a search query and magically get results (in your head, auditorily-not a word, visually, etc.). Although that technology may be just over the horizon:

For now Google’s updated interface is a welcomed change that is sure to solidify Google’s stronghold on each industry and service it enters.

Zach Katkin – Entrepreneur, Web Developer, Designer and Writer – is the co-founder of Florida Web Design Company Atilus. In business for nearly a decade, Atilus has more than 600 clients worldwide.

  • Howard Jones

    Have you seen the responses? There’s been a massive backlash against the black bar, not just because it is a huge visual distraction and clashes with the clean design of the rest of the page, but for many users grey text on a black background simply isn’t legible.

  • l

    I have always loved the simplicity and soft colors of the google home page – dislike the brutal black

  • Zach Katkin

    @Howard, thanks for stopping by. I have seen some of the responses, and although yes I have definitely seen some negative, I’ve mostly seen positive. In fact, I’ve seen it argued – and may in fact write another post on this entirely – that Google’s new design (and the new black bar in particular, may be a reason Google+ will gain traction and be a success). We’ll have to see – at the end of the day design is, in large part due to one’s preferences. As a user of many of Google’s services I don’t feel the bar detracts, instead I think it makes using their services easier and more inviting and so I appreciate it.

  • corin

    “I have seen some of the responses, and although yes I have definitely seen some negative….”

    Zach are you kidding?, the Bar of Death is universally loathed, it is vileness personified

  • Howard Jones

    Zach, I can’t think where you’ve been looking, as most of the responses I’ve seen have been overwhelmingly negative. Yes, there are some people who like it, many more who do not. And the objections are not just aesthetic, but practical – I can’t read the text on the menu bar in anything less than optimum lighting conditions. I’m not visually impaired, but I’m over 50 and like many older people my eyesight isn’t what it used to be.

    Google’s response (finally, after days of deafening silence) can be summarised as “We’re listening to your comments but the changes are permanent for now”, which apart from being nonsense shows they treat their users with contempt. Not me, I’ve switched to Alta Vista for my search engine.

  • Zach Katkin

    Alright guys I concede, most people do seem to hate it! LOL, I had read a few posts at the time of this writing (and the previous comment and at the time it was 50/50 with about half of commenters liking it half not liking it). But now the response does seem to be overwhelming, although I for one like it much better than the previous white bar.

    As for @Howard your comment on treating users w/ contempt I see this in two lights. First, change is always hard and I think if a web app company listened to every concern (or even many) that progress wouldn’t be made. With that said though it appears people can’t even see the thing which is not acceptable (although I’ve testing on many monitors and can’t seem to duplicate the problems others are having).

    Finally in another light I work with Google and feel your pain about holding users in contempt. I’ve needed to contact their support for issues relating to AdWords and AdSense for which I or my clients are directly compensating Google and have been completely ashamed (as I tout Google for marketing and recommend to clients) of Google’s support, they’re slow, sometimes don’t get back to you, don’t directly address issues, etc. It’s clear they need to be in better touch with their customers and users.

  • Edoardo Marcora

    The black bar is a punch in the eye and the same goes for the mixed grey/black styling of everything but links, which are still blue. The css seems to have been done by an amateur designer. It really really is not pretty… and it more subdued feels makes it harder to see and find things. Yack!

  • Maya

    I like Google because it’s simple. If I wanted anything black I would use
    If I use Google I want a white one, not a black and white Google.
    The new navigation bars on the left are enough, why start cluttering the page. If I wanted that I would go for which has all sorts of links…

  • Kelly

    Art Director here… absolutely love the new design and black bar.

  • Hoopermazing

    That black bar is attrocious. Fortunately, for users of Firefox and Chrome, there are easy ways to be rid of it. This is a prime example of why cloudware sucks. The developers will change it at their whim, and not even offer the ability to say no thanks. With software installed locally, you always have the option of not updating.