Google to angry GMail users: we know better
Comment In the Cloud, nobody will hear you scream
23 Apr 2012 14:27 | by Fernando Cassia in Buenos Aires | Filed in Software Google Cloud computing
Many people who thought they could get away with running the old GMail user interface despite contant nagging to "switch to the new look" have quickly discovered that the almighty Google has decided it knows better, and proceeded to force everyone to the new. UX designers are 'humbled', but not for long...
Nine months ago when the GMail New Look was being introduced, Jason Cornwell, UX designer for GMail said in his Twitter account that he was "humbled" by the response from users. If we take the dictionary´s definition of the word we get "Made low; abased; rendered meek and submissive; penitent". Hmmm, in other words, it looks like an "Epic fail" to me. So, they learned from past mistakes, right? Wrong.
By August of last year the word was that the "old look" would be discontinued "by September". After the general outrage, Google let everyone stay with the old look, with a notice indicating it´ll be eventually going away. By November the GoogleSystem blog said: "For now, you can switch to the old interface from the settings menu, but Google says that this option will be removed soon". An outraged user from Hertfordshire UK replied - along a long list of other users´ complaints: "Please promise me one thing, we'll avoid camping out outside of Google for three weeks and, instead, we'll let the GMail team make the necessary tweaks in peace."
Back in January James Fallows at The Atlantic wrote: "Some elaborate apologies from the GMail team on why they bothered to do this at all" and a flammable indictment "how they were first tested inside Google on the company's own staffers, in accord with the "we eat our own dog food" principle. Googlers, you let us down! You could have refused to swallow this idea while it was still in dog food phase."
And now, we´re back to the "New Look", enforced for everyone, whether they like it or not. Does not look like they´ve learned, and the "humbling" didn´t last long.
GMail´s iconic and very white new look
In the brave new world of Cloud Computing, you have no rights. That´s why I call the cloud "the fine art of separating people from their software".
By buying into the cloud convenience argument and sales speech we - knowingly or not - gave away our rights to continue using old applications and upgrading at our own pace, if at all.
With open source software "running old versions" sometimes can mean "and get updates too", the development model allows for criticism to be expressed via bug reports and RFEs (Requests for Enhancement), and often in some instances when you don´t like the upgrade path proposed, just revive the old version and continue developing it, just like some folks did with the Gnome 2.x desktop, revived as project "Mate".
UX Experts in their ivory tower
Like in any other top-down decision making process, the potential for disastrous decisions exists. And in that sense, Google is not only a cloud computing service provider, they seem surrounded by their own cloud, unable or unwilling to cave in to the desires of many of its users who prefer -for whatever reason - GMail's old look. Because they know best, or as fathers tell little kids when they refuse to swallow nauseating medicine, "it´s for your own good".
And the experts in this case are the GUI designers, or, in modern parlance "User Experience designers", or UX Designers, for short. One of them is Jason Cornwell, who if you look at his Twitter TL, he's got to spend time defending GMail´s new look and telling users to 'tweak' the design to better resemble the old one.
According to Glassdoor.com, a Google "User Experience Designer" guru makes about $340K/year, and Gurgle has a lot of them. It's like every product has got its own "UX designer". Why do we mention this? Not to blame the employees, but with regards to alleged "high cost" of keeping running the old version that pleased many users, in parallel with the new one. Read on.
Jason Cornwell, GMail's UX guru, told me :"Keeping the old UI running, keeping it secure, and updating the new version as well would cost us a lot". Well, I disagree. I think the vast number of UX Experts at Google constantly fiddling with the service and annoying long time users is costing it a lot, not only in wages but also in users' annoyance and dissatisfaction. But that's just me.
At one blog, Ho-Sheng Hiao writes: "You would think with the number of people continually hitting ´revert to the old design´ would trigger a metric somewhere", to which Jason Crawford, an engineer at Groupon, writes: "They clearly heard the feedback" but adds "that´s why they introduced the density setting and the high contrast theme. They know what the problems are. They just don´t want to admit that the new design is inferior and they don´t want to throw it out."
What is wrong with ´new´? Plenty
Stephen Markley over here wonders: "I cannot be the only person irritated to the point of dementia by GMail's new look". Indeed, he's not alone. Minutes after the forced change, Twitter began buzzing - pun intended - again against the forced change.
What you see below is the first wave of messages captured yesterday morning, in about 10 minutes.
Read more: http://news.techeye.net/software/google-to-angry-gmail-users-we-know-better#ixzz1ssq2JeZG