Google is Getting Left Behind Due To Horrible UI/UX

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Google is Getting Left Behind Due to Horrible UI/UX | Daniel Miessler

Daniel Miessler writes:

I’ve been writing for probably a decade about how bad Google’s GUI is for Google Analytics, Google Apps, and countless of their other properties — not to mention their multiple social media network attempts, like Google+ and Wave. Back then it was super annoying, but kind of ok. They’re a hardcore engineering group, and their backend services are without equal. But lately it’s just becoming too much.

1. Even Gmail is a cesspool at this point. Nobody would ever design a webmail interface like that, starting from scratch.

2. What happened to Google Docs? Why does it not look and behave more like Notion, or Quip, or any of the other alternatives that made progress in the last 5-10 years?

3. What college course do I take to manage a Google Analytics property?

4. Google just rolled out Google Analytics 4 — I think — and the internet is full of people asking the same question I am. “Is this a real rollout?”

[…] My questions are simple:

1. How the hell is this possible? I get it 10 years ago. But then they came out with the new design language. Materialize, or whatever it was. Cool story, and cool visuals. But it’s not about the graphics, it’s about the experience.

2. How can you be sitting on billions of dollars and be unable to hire product managers that can create usable interfaces?

3. How can you run Gmail on an interface that’s tangibly worse than anything else out there?

4. How can you let Google Docs get completely obsoleted by startups?

I’ve heard people say that Google has become the new Microsoft, or the new Oracle, but damn — at least Microsoft is innovating. At least Oracle has a sailing team, or whatever else they do. I’m being emotional at this point.

Conversation 25 comments

  • jimchamplin

    Premium Member
    15 December, 2020 - 6:16 pm

    <p>See, what Google doesn't have is a character like Larry Ellison, Marc Benioff, Satya Nadella, or the dad joke beta testing team at Apple (Cook/Joswiak/Srouji/Federighi).</p><p><br></p><p>No, they have a revolving door of corporate spokespeople, product managers, and high-level engineers. There doesn't appear to be anybody driving the truck, just a bunch of people with maps pointing in vaguely the same direction. </p><p><br></p><p>Google has no vision. Hell, even Facebook has a vision: <em>Connect all people whether they want it or not. </em>So there at least is something. What is Google's vision? <em>Do a bunch of stuff but none of it very well except maybe Chrome. Maybe.<span class="ql-cursor"></span></em></p>

    • Vladimir Carli

      16 December, 2020 - 8:05 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#600198">In reply to jimchamplin:</a></em></blockquote><p> I respectfully disagree that google has no vision. Their vision is something like: offer low-average quality but free services to lure in as many people as possible and use their data to sell ads</p>

      • Paul Thurrott

        Premium Member
        16 December, 2020 - 8:32 am

        I think you need to get off your soapbox. Google makes some of the very best web apps and services in the world.

  • willr

    15 December, 2020 - 6:49 pm

    <p>The only thing I disagree with is that they're getting left behind. They're not getting left behind because Apple and Microsoft are just as bad! I would say the Microsoft is maybe the least bad, but there's still big problems. Mozilla and Vivaldi have amazing UI/UX people but they're just browsers</p>

  • hrlngrv

    Premium Member
    15 December, 2020 - 8:24 pm

    <p>Re Google Docs, I only use Sheets, and it's fine for what it is. It also has the best current implementation of regular expressions, and its database functions are better than the <strong>functions</strong> Excel provides even if Power Query may be better for external queries.</p><p><br></p><p>As for Gmail, as long as I can connect a desktop mail client to web-based email servers, I don't care what the web app UI is like.</p>

  • j5

    Premium Member
    15 December, 2020 - 9:03 pm

    <p>I think Google Docs and Gmail are alive and strong with normies who don't care about UI updates "just want it to work and not change so I have to learn something new!" And lots of schools, high school down, use Google services and Chrome books happily. </p><p><br></p><p>I think a lot of the time as tech people we can't see outside of our own tech bubble and think everyone wants the same out of tech as we do. I'm just commenting because I had a similar conversation with my Dad about his email and using Windows. And he's 100% normie and just want the damn thing to work don't care about fancy features or looks lol.</p>

  • winner

    15 December, 2020 - 9:09 pm

    <p>One person's opinion.</p><p>Have you seen Microsoft's UIs?</p><p>Windows 10. I rest my case.</p>

  • shark47

    15 December, 2020 - 9:13 pm

    <p>As a slight aside, I'm surprised Google hasn't paid Apple money to make their Office suite the default on their products. Both Apple and Google would benefit from killing off their mutual enemy. (They're doing this with search already.)</p><p><br></p><p>I use Gmail because Outlook has a terrible spam filter that makes it useless. It's embarrassingly bad. I'm not a big fan of the UI, but I like YouTube. </p><p><br></p><p><br></p>

  • j5

    Premium Member
    15 December, 2020 - 9:40 pm

    <blockquote><em><a href="#600228">In reply to lvthunder:</a></em></blockquote><p>Coast and because it works. There's plenty of cheaper or free solutions but they don't work like Google does.</p>

  • basic sandbox

    15 December, 2020 - 10:46 pm

    <p>The mobile Google Photos has a weird UI. The Search icon is at the bottom. Once you click the Search icon the search window pops up near the top of the Google Photos app. I never get use to it.</p><p>I also think mobile Google Maps UI is too busy. When I do a simple restaurant search the UI is gummed up with large food photos. I miss the days of a simple list which was easy to review.&nbsp;</p><p>Do better options exist though?</p>

  • codymesh

    16 December, 2020 - 12:36 am

    <p>I think people go to Google Docs for it to be like Google Docs (i.e. what it is now). If GDocs looked like Notion or Quip, people will start freaking out.</p><p><br></p><p>I think Google has never had particularly good design nor were they ever a leader. If you look at the current incarnation of Google Maps vs Apple Maps….it's quite sobering, actually. A lot of youtubers have been frustrated with the new creator studio, too. But there are no real alternatives to the two products.</p>

  • wright_is

    Premium Member
    16 December, 2020 - 6:25 am

    <p>The thing is, Docs, Sheets etc. are business tools. Business users are often not tech savvy and freak out if the interface suddenly starts changing and things move – our helpdesk lines were blocked recently, when Microsoft removed the search bar from the top of the email list and replaced with with a new omni-bar in the window title-bar. </p><p>Users were freaking out and calling up to say that search no longer worked! They couldn't equate the new omni-bar in the title-bar with the search bar for the list of emails, therefore search was broken!</p>

    • illuminated

      16 December, 2020 - 3:49 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#600290">In reply to wright_is:</a></em></blockquote><p>For many business users software is a tool and they are working with customers, suppliers, machinery, etc. and when they<span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);"> </span>have to hunt for usual button or text box it disrupts the work.</p>

  • shark47

    16 December, 2020 - 6:52 am

    <blockquote><em><a href="#600226">In reply to lvthunder:</a></em></blockquote><p>Right, but Google already pays Apple $8 to $10B per year to keep Google search as the default on Apple's devices. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, as they say. Also, I think Google and Apple have a much better relationship now than they did a few years ago. Apple needs Android around to avoid regulatory attention.</p>

    • bkkcanuck

      16 December, 2020 - 7:04 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#600293">In reply to shark47:</a></em></blockquote><p>Having Google pay to have their search engine in prime position is a no brainer since that tends to be the one that the customers prefer anyways. I believe Yahoo use to pay for that pleasure on Firefox a while back, while the customers were preferring Google (and yes, you can change it)… </p>

      • shark47

        16 December, 2020 - 7:09 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#600294">In reply to bkkcanuck:</a></em></blockquote><p>It makes sense for a Yahoo or a Microsoft to allow them to capture some marketshare away from Google. I don't think it makes sense for Google given its market dominance. The government also thinks it might be illegal.</p>

  • Vladimir Carli

    16 December, 2020 - 8:03 am

    <blockquote><em><a href="#600228">In reply to lvthunder:</a></em></blockquote><p><br></p><p>the only times we turn to google docs/sheets/slides is when we have to collaborate on the same documents. Nothing works like google when 5-10 users make edits simultaneously. For everything else, the product is terrible and we would ditch it immediately if it wasn't for the live sync functionality</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      16 December, 2020 - 8:32 am

      The way you describe it, it sounds essential then.

  • yoshi

    Premium Member
    16 December, 2020 - 8:46 am

    <p>People love writing articles that hate on Google. But after they post it, they get into their cars and turn on Google Maps. Get home, triage their Gmail while watching YouTube TV. Lay in bed and catch up on Google News before turning out the lights. Wake up in the morning, look at their Nest, and ask Google for the latest news. </p><p><br></p><p>Okay, so maybe they aren't THAT invested, but the point is Google makes some of the best services that exist. Billions of people wouldn't be using this stuff if it wasn't good. People can argue all day about their privacy practices and yes they have tons of work to do in that area – but when a user opens up Sheets and gets a better experience than Excel Online, that's all that matters.</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      16 December, 2020 - 8:54 am

      Yeah. I don’t see a UX apocalypse at Google at all. My God, we use Windows. The rest of the world looks consistent by comparison.

  • minke

    16 December, 2020 - 9:32 am

    <p>At my previous place of employment we hired college students as summer interns and it was interesting how they universally were totally at home with all the Google products, but were often lost using Microsoft Office and Windows. Young people in school today just use Google, from Chromebooks in grade school and high school to G Suite for Education in college (or whatever they call it today). For us old farts it is often the opposite, because we were weaned on Microsoft products, though I have managed to get my 90-year-old father using Google stuff and he rather likes it. UI/UX is so subjective, and I think it often comes down to what you are used to using.</p>

    • shark47

      16 December, 2020 - 12:08 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#600340">In reply to Minke:</a></em></blockquote><p>Agreed. I think, over time, every piece of software ends up with its own eccentricities that long-time users are accustomed to. Even for something as easy as the iPad OS, I find some of the edge swipes confusing at times. </p><p><br></p><p>I might be in the minority, but I find the Office Ribbon UI among the most accessible. </p><p><br></p>

  • darkgrayknight

    Premium Member
    16 December, 2020 - 2:22 pm

    <blockquote><em><a href="#600228">In reply to lvthunder:</a></em></blockquote><p>This is also the case for businesses that moved to Google. Any more it is the "default" for most even though there are seriously better products.</p>

  • reefer2

    16 December, 2020 - 8:11 pm

    <p>That article reminded me why i stopped visiting slashdot years ago. </p>

  • Andrew Oleary

    20 March, 2023 - 11:15 am

    It sounds like you are frustrated with the user interface and design of Google’s products, particularly in comparison to their engineering capabilities and financial resources. While I cannot speak on behalf of Google or their product management decisions, I can offer some thoughts on your questions: It is possible that Google’s focus on engineering excellence and data-driven decision-making has resulted in a de-prioritization of user experience and design. Additionally, the sheer size and complexity of Google’s products and services may make it difficult to create a cohesive and user-friendly experience across all of them. Hiring and retaining top product management talent can be challenging for any company, and Google may face competition from other tech giants and startups for these individuals. Gmail’s interface may be a matter of personal preference, and what works well for some users may not work for others. Additionally, there may be technical constraints or legacy systems that prevent Google from making significant changes to the interface. It is not uncommon for startups to innovate and disrupt established players in the tech industry, and Google may need to continually adapt and improve their products to stay competitive.


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