I’m using Google Analytics, the new Google website statistics tracking package.
So far I have limited stats available, but even in this phase I’m noticing a few things worth mentioning.
- The primary target audience is execs wanting to track the effect of their online marketing efforts. This is reflected, not only in the design, but in the wording and setup process for the tool; ROI, Conversion Summary, and “View as Executive”. This is a good idea, as in my experience execs are the first to ask for just that.
- It’s going to be a huge success for Google. It’s a simple, free service that provides in a simple way, what Webalizer has failed to provide for years.
- Analytics is using a visual identity which is distinctly different from Googles other doings in a number of ways.
- For one, Analytics is using TradeGothic for the logotype. Until now, Google has been using a bold, colored Arial right below the Google logo itself. See Google Image Search, for instance.
- The orange top-bar colour is much sharper than the pastel color scheme Google usually sticks to.
- The orange top-bar is bordered all the way around, instead of only a topmost border like Google Local (which is a pretty traditional Google design).
- Icons have their own distinct style (Print, Export to Excel, etc.), as compared to other Google services.
- The login information bar in the top-right corner has it’s very own style, as compared to Google Personalized.
- The navigation bar to the left has a unique design which I haven’t yet seen anywhere else. Gmail is probably the Google product that has the most UI, but even here there’s not much in common with Analytics. Even the drop-down arrows (Analytics navigation / Gmail labels) are different.
- The main Google Analytics site is also sporting the new design. Notice the stark orange ribbon? Notice the dropshadow inside? Also take note of the dashed lines, the “gray-as-opposed-to-black” text color and the use of Verdana.
So what does this mean? Well, as I see it, it can mean two things.
On one hand, it might just be a mistake. I’ve seen many Google products with little visual conformity. In fact most standalone Google applications have their own skin; Google Earth, Google Talk, Google Desktop, Google Picasa. Four different products, four different interfaces with only the logo in common (and in the case of Google Desktop, not even the logo in common). If they had only stuck to plain UI Widgets (the standard OS controls) instead of styling the lot, they’d atleast have that in common.
On the other hand, and this is what I think is the case, it can mean a more specific design for a specific target audience. I’m sure there are lots of execs at Google, all sporting the same bullshit bingo, yelling “Synergy!” from time to time. This breed craves stats. Detailed stats, that are simple and easy to understand, but draped to look complex, meaningful and slightly intimidating. Would the friendly Google design work here? No siree, time is money and and there’s no time for simplicity here!
What I would like to see, should Google want to stick around for a while, is a clear and distinct visual direction for all their products. Make a visual identity, and stick to it. This doesn’t negate the possibility of targetting specific audiences, it only means there’s going to be a visual connection between services—besides the logo. Four different skins are three or four skins too many. Four different designs are three designs too many.
I’m convinced it’ll benefit them in the long run to plot a course for their visual efforts. For now, we’ll have to settle for the contents.