Usability: September 2010 Archives

Please Bring Back Vanilla Google

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I have a great respect for the folks at Google, but the last two days, I have been very, very perplexed about some design choices. Yesterday (Sep 7, 2010), we saw the Google logo converted into flying globes and today (Sep 8, 2010), I see a new auto fill "instant" search feature.

I found both so distracting I fled to alternate search sites including the still living altavista.com and Google Canada. Based on my Twitter feed yesterday and user forum response, I don't think I was the only one perplexed (but I did discover Google.ca that way). I doth protest and do proclaim that I want my vanilla Google back....Please.

For the record, I do appreciate that Google wants to show off HTML 5 and CSS 3. I actually liked the animated buckyball logo shown a few days earlier, but it differed in a key way from the Sep 7 logo - it wasn't distracting.

On that day, the golden capital O ever so gently expanded into the delicate miracle of buckyball carbon. The link even pointed to information on buckyballs (per usual). In contrast, the balls scattered themselves around every time I used the mouse getting in the way of my search field. I am not officially diagnosed with ADD, but even so, I could hardy find the search field amidst all the chaos. Ugh. Even having them settle down permanently would have been better than this.

Even no worse, there was no official explanation when you clicked the link. Why? Marketing? But hasn't Google been about us the consumer rather than marketing themselves? Hmmm.

Today's instant search is equally troubling. I liked the feature of possibly queries revealing themselves as I type, but an entire page of text? Can't I just finish typing before you give me the answer? Are you done loading yet? Is it safe to click? It's true that you can disable it, but to do that permanently I will have to log into my Google account, and I am wondering how much I can trust that too.

And I guess that's my ultimate point - am I losing faith in Google? Google has a lot of unique services, and at $0 (U.S.), you can't beat the price. But for $0, I also don't get any of Google's financial incentive to invest in my privacy. With Google services multiplying left and right, I am joining those concerned with Google's accumulating data

And pulling marketing stunts like mystery animated logo doesn't make me trust them any more. It kind of breaks the illusion that Google is about the love and not about maximizing profits. Not that I object to profit - it's actually more transparent.

So please Google, be careful with your new features. We want to trust you, not be scared by privacy and usability fails. Remember what is happening to Facebook's reputation because of their privacy fails.

There is a bright spot in this though - the people are out there and they are watching. I know because I found them on Google. In that sense, the Internet is working better than ever.