User Interface Logic

April 3, 2006

Topics: Usability.

After my vitriolic post on MSN’s Search Macros, I’ve been thinking a lot about user interfaces. User interface design is difficult and unpredictable, and is always crucial to the success of any website, web service, or web tool. The bigger companies can usually get away with something new, novel, or unusual because of marketing hype and a strong user base.
But it’s easy to lose track of what you need to communicate to your users.

To me, MSN’s Search Macros fall down hard because they completely failed to communicate – I didn’t even bother reviewing the actual search tool, because the user interface was so unintuitive that it seemed a much higher priority to me. This week I’d like to look at a few other well-known products with an eye to user interface issues.

I’m going to start with one of my own pet peeves – Google’s Account interface. (You’ll only get anything out of that link if you have a Google Account.)

Google Account Management

Google lets you use one account to log in to all of their services. They also have an interface which supposedly provides access to your services and to an account summary. But I can only hope they’re working on this, because it simply doesn’t provide anything that I want from an account manager.

Google Account Manager

The problems are very simple – this user interface gives you the impression that it will provide access to your services. However, under the heading "Edit Services Info", you are only given access to two services – Gmail and Google Alerts. I am subscribed to a number of additional services – Adwords, Adsense, Analytics and Sitemaps, for example. I would love to have a simple link to those interfaces from this panel.

The "New Services" are clearly quite out of date – and I’d like to turn them off, anyhow, since I have no interest in having these things thrown at me.

Quite simply – Google needs an account manager to give users a centralized place to access or edit all of their services. This interface should clearly delineate links to services versus links to edit account information. Instead, Google provides an account manager, but it does not provide any of the access which would make it useful.

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