Is Google murdering Google+ with poor UI design?

A poster child for poor interface design

Apple, Google, iOS, Android, Google+, mobile apps
Credit: Google

Google is testing a new version of Google+, saying it wants to make the service better to use. The company also updated its iOS and Android apps with new versions designed (I think) to demonstrate its skills for poor user interface design.

Poor design

Various reports called it “lean, mean and completely redesigned,” and Google itself claimed it had developed a “mobile-first” experience. You’d think from listening to Google that it had succeeded in making it even easier to run communities.

"There were two features they kept coming back to: Communities, which now average 1.2 million new joins per day, and Collections, which launched just five months ago and is growing even faster,” said Eddie Kessler, Director of Streams, Google. “Whether it’s the Nonfiction Addiction Community, where people can be found discussing the best in Crime or Travel storytelling, or the Watch Project Collection, where more than 40,000 people are following an antique watch hobbyist, these are the places on Google+ where people around the world are spending their time discovering and sharing things they love.

Google thinks it has made its social service simpler to use on the Web, Android and iOS platforms, for a “fast and consistent experience."

Bad experience

I tried to use the new version of Google+ to let my beloved Appleholic’s Kool Aid Korner community know about my posts last week, and found the experience utterly confounding. Links didn’t show up in posts, story images didn’t appear and attempts to posts with other groups failed. The remaining tools are hard to find and the big red post button has echoes of site design in 1989. It’s awful. “The new interface seems to have a real Windows-8 customer service feel, doesn’t it?” one of my readers quipped.

I put it down to needing to learn my way around the service (so you can look forward to a future post about that). It turns out it isn’t just my lack of knowledge, but poor design. (It has to be poor design if a community moderator can’t find a control to enable them to remove spam comments, for example).

Community care

Stefan Svartling runs the world’s biggest Apple-focused Google+ group with around 428,000 members. It’s one of the largest Apple-centric networks in the world, and highly active. Given that Google claims to have focused on enabling communities in the new service, you’d think he’d be pleased.

He doesn’t seem very pleased.

“Google shows us once again that it can’t do iOS apps,” he said in a recent YouTube clip. “The new update is so terrible the app is practically useless now.”

He is unable to moderate his community from his iOS devices, because “all the features we need to moderate the community are gone.” He’s forced to update his community from the Web version in Safari, which also “sucks” but is “usable," he says.

Svartling has built a great community on the Google social network. He clearly has every reason to support Google+. But he is genuinely concerned. “This will kill Google+ even faster than before, I’m sure of that,” he said.

Et tu, Android?

This isn’t just an Apple v. Google complaint. Android users are also unimpressed. Commenting on the Android app, Linux developer Cassidy James says: “Bottom tabs on Android is not cool. System-wide navigation goes there, and putting app-wide controls right up against the back, home, and multitasking button is just asking for trouble. C'mon Google.”

This probably isn’t the kind of feedback Google was hoping for last week when it wrote: “Creating great products that solve real needs and make life easier for people is something Google is always striving for.”

When it comes to mobile user interface design, Google clearly has a whole bunch more “striving” to do before its users will adopt the redesign. I am fond of my Google+ community, but while we wait for it to update I’d urge followers there to follow my Twitter account (details below), and I’ve reverted back to using the old version. I’ll avoid using the new version for as long as I can.

Google+? If you use social media and happen to be a Google+ user, why not join AppleHolic's Kool Aid Corner community and join the conversation as we pursue the spirit of the New Model Apple?

Got a story?Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I'd like it if you chose to follow me.

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