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Long Dropdown Menus in Google Insights for Search

A very long dropdown menuGoogle Insights for Search is an exciting tool and if you haven’t had the chance to check it out yet, you ought to. This tool lets you research what people search for and when they have done it. It’s the sort of tool that can provide hours of entertainment to people interested in Internet marketing.

Certain parts of the user interface, however, present usability problems. It all comes down to an relying too heavily on the dropdown menu when other controls would work better.
The pervasive problem on the Google Insights for Search user interface is that they try to put too much material into dropdown menus. Take, for example, the location filter – there are around 167 options when one wants to select a country. They helpfully provide a short list at the beginning with “only” 20 commonly selected countries, but that is still too much for a dropdown menu. The subregions dropdown may also suffer from the same problem. In the USA, there are 51 regions.

Choosing an item from these dropdowns is inefficient and potentially error-prone. The solution? One possible solution is to use the same technique used for Google Suggest. One could then start typing in the name of a country and the interface can suggest possible selections as one types. Google could even make these dropdowns into combo boxes so they’ll accept typed input while also letting the user browse through al of the choices.

Dropdown menu - tree hybridThe category dropdown is even more problematic. In addition to providing a long list of choices, this dropdown includes a tree structure that is three levels deep. If the user starts expanding the tree, a horizontal scrollbar appears in the dropdown, making it more difficult to navigate the choices.

To Google’s credit, they provide a robust set of keyboard shortcuts for navigating this dropdown/tree hybrid. However, a text box that suggests choices as the user types would work better here, particularly when the user is not familiar with Google’s categorization scheme. It may still be useful to be able to browse through the categories, but that interaction may work better in a separate window.

Google Insights for Search is still in beta, so it may change. Nonetheless, that should mean that this is the right time for constructive feedback.

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One Response to "Long Dropdown Menus in Google Insights for Search"

  • jhullman
    November 20, 2008 - 9:16 pm Reply

    nice post. maybe you could do a series of posts deconstructing diff web analytics software? (seriously, i would enjoy it, and probably learn something!)

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