Previously I discussed tabs, now it's time to look at where tabs live.
The header is arguably an important part of any application. I'm going to stop and be honest here. I have designed some headers that look a lot like Google. Yeah, that's right, Google... bet you were expecting me to say 37signals, right? But let's have a look...
Updated: Someone just linked me to slate blog so I added it as yet another example.
Looks like most of the headers (including Basecamp and Blogger) have a lot in common...
These are easy to spot:
* Log-out link in top right (all)
* Name of who is logged in at the top right (50/50)
* Help link top right (all except Beast which doesn't have help)
* Help link on orange or other bold color (50/50)
* Tabs for navigation (all but Beast)
* Large title above tabs for name of app or project or context (all)
* Logo to the left above tabs (every app with a logo that's where they put it)
* Solid color background (all but Harvest - I count Blogger because the graphic is subtle)
* My Account / My Info / My Profile link top right (all, in Beast you click your login name)
You have to get picky, but they can be found. Harvest is pretty radical with it's two tone colors. Some apps offer Help as a normal link, others highlight it prominently. Blogger includes a link next to it's tabs and Lighthouse adds a image inside the Dashboard tab. Each app has it's own colors.
Re-read the list of similarities... I think you'll recognize most as common web application design conventions or well-accepted best practices. It's no surprise these apps embrace those and therefore no surprise to find their headers all look quite similar. I think it would actually be bad for the state of web applications if we started finding massive differences from one app to the next.
Yes, I'm aware that I chose the samples... but many are well-known sites, and they weren't hard to find. It's not like I had to scour the Internet for hours to find matching headers. Blogger's actually caught me by surprise as I tried to start this blog there before failing because of their miserable WYSIWYG editor.
All and all, way more similarities than differences. If 37signals is upset about other apps headers resembling their suite of products... then they have a lot to be upset about indeed.
Next, we'll take a deep breath and imagine a world in which we all design everyday drinking cups instead of web apps.