Digg Bar launched with some controversy recently. It’s iframe trapping all over again; sites like About didn’t make themselves too popular with this technique, and so it died down until recently. I think there are legitimate uses for the top bar though; certainly the Digg Bar is useful to at least those people who are currently logged into Digg.
In fact, the reaction in the past few months suggests that top bars are here to stay. There was an initial uproar, but it seems to have been accepted, and I think top bars will start to become a fixture of the web. Given the valuable tracking data that comes from it, I can imagine dominance of the top 40 pixels of the browser window will become a big deal too…and right now, the big GYM guys (Google/Yahoo/Microsoft) aren’t doing it. Through development or acquisition, IMO that will change.
Users always trade off privacy against utility, and what can be an uproar about privacy concerns and google juice theft quickly dies down when people find value in a new feature. In this case, companies like Digg and StumbleUpon aren’t producing top bars as part of a cynical get-rich-scheme; I believe competition is too fierce to resort to cheap tricks that will get users off-side. Instead, I believe they are genuinely aiming to win, adding awesome features to improve user experience first and foremost. The Google Juice and tracking data that comes with it is a gigantic dollop of icing on the cake and top bars therefore constitute another example of having your cake and eating it too.
But this article is about web design, not web trends. An application of top bars I’ve been looking at recently is a “trails player” I’ve been building into Scrumptious lately. User creates a trail of websites for someone to visit, and each of them shows up in a trail bar at the top of the page.
To style this, I made like the web greats and peeked under the covers at a bunch of similar websites:
I’ve made a dead-simple bar to illustrate the concept.
The canonical layout works like this: