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Douglas Spencer

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Someone at Google needs to be fired today [Jun. 10th, 2010|10:15 am]
Douglas Spencer
Amongst my specialties are such diverse elements as advising companies on the usability and accessibility of their websites, and explaining to them how making changes to their website which lead to the website being less usable and less accessible is really really stupid.

Today, Google is being really really stupid.

Changes which destroy usability and accessibility need to have a usable and accessible opt-out which is easy, which is quick, and which actually works.

Google, today you fail.

[User Picture]From: bopeepsheep
2010-06-10 09:20 am (UTC)
Oof. It doesn't bother me too much as it is, but having poked it I don't see an option to remove the background image. Replacing it with a nearly blank one seems the best instant option (I could make a blank one and upload it but what a faff).
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[User Picture]From: vicarage
2010-06-10 09:26 am (UTC)
Doug, your posts so often don't actually explain what you are talking about. Is this deliberate, because its really irritating?
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[User Picture]From: dougs
2010-06-10 09:34 am (UTC)
Google have rolled out a compulsory background image on their search website at www.google.co.uk and many other country TLDs. It makes the site difficult to read for many users. In particular you can't read the text of the link which says "change background image", because it's on top of a background image.

You can't easily turn the feature off.

You can't change the image (for example, to a blank white jpg) if you're not signed in to a Google account.

You can't change it (for example, to a blank white jpg) if the script for turning it off fails to load or run, i.e. at the moment in all browsers I have.

None of the other techniques for turning it off are accessible to the non-technical user.

When you can turn the background off, the other screen elements don't cooperate with a blank/white background.
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[User Picture]From: tregenza
2010-06-10 11:49 am (UTC)
Also -

They don't provide you with a default blank image to use, you have to upload your own.

The background settings are not in the place you expect - e.g. my Search Settings or my Profile. They only place you can change it is via the search front page.

I agree with you, this is such a stupid, ill thought out change. I use Google for searches because it has a clean simple interface. This totally breaks one of Google most distinctive features.

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[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2010-06-10 09:32 am (UTC)
My Google looks the same as it ever did - a white background - with a cryptic message about "curious about today's homepage?" What's happening? Did somebody who used to work for Facebook take over at Google?
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[User Picture]From: ingaborg
2010-06-10 10:08 am (UTC)
Poor taste is not the issue - usability / readability is the issue.
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[User Picture]From: sarah_mum
2010-06-10 09:41 am (UTC)
At home it's got that horrible latice building, which I agree is annoying and not what I asked for, but isn't enough to raise my bloodpressure.
At work it's good old white page and classic logo.
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[User Picture]From: andrewducker
2010-06-10 09:43 am (UTC)
Yeah - I'm glad that I just use the firefox search bar, because that image would annoy me really quickly.
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[User Picture]From: alexmc
2010-06-10 10:04 am (UTC)
Well yes. I haven't even seen this homepage yet. It just so happens that when I open a new window what comes up is http://start.ubuntu.com/10.04/Google/
and that of course isn't written by Google.

Right. Looked. Yes, it is annoying. And there is an opt-out. I realise that isn't the same as choosing to opt-in, but most people want to be given updates without asking for them.

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[User Picture]From: vicarage
2010-06-10 10:53 am (UTC)
I'd rather they did it by opt-in, as they'd get plenty of advertising of the feature in their blog and in the media.

Too many systems distract you when by asking questions about new features when you just want to get to the old stuff. My usual reaction is to swear and swat at the nearest button, rather than have my train of thought derailed.

This feature should have been Google Labbed first.
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[User Picture]From: hawkida
2010-06-10 09:45 am (UTC)
While I agree with you to some extent - that's a way too busy background and detrimental to the page, and not opt-out, I find it really frustrating the way that we now have a culture of calling for firings over every business mistake anywhere.

People are people, they fuck up. Sometimes they fuck up monumentally, but screwing something up one day doesn't negate all the good stuff they did, or stop them from doing better stuff in the future. In fact, if you get a good enough explanation of what you did wrong it's one of the best ways to guarantee that you'll do better in future if you give a damn. Sacking people does not help. It means the position needs to be filled by someone else, someone, somewhere along the line will therefore end up in a position they're not familiar with, meaning they're more likely to make a mistake at some point in the future. It also means that the employer gets a reputation of not giving a shit about its staff and just stomping over anyone who makes a mistake. That does not breed good working practice in the employees, it makes them stop giving a damn and wrecks morale.

Someone at google needs to be educated.
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[User Picture]From: alexmc
2010-06-10 10:07 am (UTC)
I pretty much agree with Hawkida here, but want to stress another point.

The culture at Google is one of "just go ahead and try it". Being able to try something and having the right to make mistakes is vital. If we all held back because of fear of making a mistake then there would be no progress at all.

(But yeah, that image is pretty annoying)
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[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2010-06-10 02:46 pm (UTC)
And anyone dealing with live web pages fucks up in public!
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[User Picture]From: elfy
2010-06-10 09:54 am (UTC)
In the (german) google help forum it says it's just today to advertise the possibility to change the background and it will be back to normal tomorrow.
Yeah, it still sucks, no question, but at least it's just one day.
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[User Picture]From: alexmc
2010-06-10 10:01 am (UTC)
So it seems to me that they are doing exactly what DougS is asking for - they *test* the usability.

Admittedly it is is in a wide public beta test which we didn't opt in for but...
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[User Picture]From: dougs
2010-06-10 10:28 am (UTC)
They're not testing the usability, the feature's been in place for US users for a while, where they can add or remove a background image of their choice. They've explicitly stated that they're doing it to advertise the feature in the rest of the world. Not a test.

And the opt-out which exists doesn't work if you're not signed in, and won't run if you're doing almost anything with cookies other than "accept anything" or if you've disabled cross-site scripting.
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[User Picture]From: ang_grrr
2010-06-10 10:32 am (UTC)
Editors picks has a white background. I have to admit that I struggled to find out how to turn it off.
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[User Picture]From: seph_hazard
2010-06-10 01:50 pm (UTC)
What's now annoying me is that when I went to find out what you're on about (I use chrome, so never have any need to go to the google homepage; my entire browser is a search engine!) I discovered that both .com and .co.uk are redirecting straight to my iGoogle page which I never use for anything. Wish I could turn it off; I don't know why, but it makes me cross that I can't get to just nice plain ordinary google!
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[User Picture]From: hazeii
2010-06-12 10:19 am (UTC)
It had normally mild-mannered people here raging at Google's stupidity; it's like getting into your car as usual to find someone's changed the decor and you can't read the instruments any more.

As you have probably noted, the HTTPS search doesn't have this (mis)feature.
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