Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011...8:36 pm

Google Products Updating – Usability Fails

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I must confess: I am pretty conservative. Not to the point of totally not accepting any changes – but if there is no real pressing need to change anything, I won’t be looking to change it. Moreover, you can guess I am not typically particularly happy when a change affects something that was well usable in a negative manner.

With a rush of Google’s product updates recently, I keep wondering what’s going on – have they fired and completely replaced their internal staff dealing with interface designs and who are those people working on these things now? Are they clueless newbies, do they even test what they create? Has Google decided to cut down usability testing expenses? Because a lot of what I see looks like a complete disaster.

Take just two products, for example. Those I use quite a lot in my daily work.

First, there is Google Analytics. OK, you sell me on getting access to real time data – but considering the new interface it is just not worth the move for me. I wonder who the typical Google Analytics user is, how many sites/accounts do they have under their login? I of course might be more of an exception with my dozens and dozens, but I’d suspect typically people would have at least 3-4 sites there.

Now, when I check my Analytics I like to have a quick glance first at what’s going on with the traffic and its dynamics and then dig deeper to identify any possible issues, and with the old interface it is easily doable:

But compare that to this sad shit of an interface in the new Analytics:

Takes me 3 clicks just to get to that same data for each single account, nevermind getting the data for all my sites! And they don’t make it easy switching back to the first screen, either – took me quite a while to figure out how to do it (for those still wondering, click on the dropdown in the upper left corner with the list of all accounts and click the button appearing there that says “Accounts list”).

OK with Analytics I am not a typical user but what about Google Docs? I only really use them when I need to share something with other people and have it updated in real time, otherwise I don’t think Google Docs will ever be able to replace the real Office applications for most of my document creation and editing needs – there’s just too much stuff missing. Anyways, I found out that the search shortcut (Command+F or Control+F, depending on the OS) doesn’t work in some browsers. Anotehr issue, again, is a less-than-straightforward way of switching back to the old interface. The only place where the link to do it appears prominently is the Google Docs home page, but when you are viewing a document you just don’t see how to do it. Here’s how: click Help and select “Use the classic look”.

I could go on and dissect the failures of the newly updated Reader but I will stop for now and maybe get back to it some other time. For now, let me just say: I’m sticking to the old GA and Docs for as long as they stay alive.

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