Disclaimer: I started to write this post around 5 months ago, but then I stopped blogging ;) Now I am catching up since I started in leovernazza.com.
As I explained in a previous post, I moved to Android. In summary, I am pretty happy with the phone. However, there are several usability issues & bugs that really called my attention for a phone branded by Google. Most of them are too obvious for a company that has an army of PhD ready to take care of the details… but maybe they were using their 20% to integrate Wave into GMail (</SARCASM>).
Most usability problems are just bugs in the design; if you compare them with implementation bugs, the former passed even more stages in the development process; so, I will list them indifferently. I am not a usability guru, but I have sensibility for the topic and I’ve studied a lot about it in the last years, specially while working in Himalia.
The post became larger than I expected so I separated the content in a few entries.
1. Different Searches
I know, Google is the company behind the phone, but… I don’t need more than one search button in my 4.6 inches screen at any given moment.
The problem starts because any application might include -and they actually do – their custom search button.
Official Twitter App for Android and Nexus One
“That’s because Android runs on top of too many different devices so the apps need to cover all of them “. Hehe, how difficult could it be to check whether the device already has a button for that, and if so, hide the app button? You can always hard-code the device configuration in a txt. There is no excuse here for the app builder.
That’s actually a third-party app integration issue, but you can see how newer phones took the lesson about this, so it’s also actually a failure in the design of the core.
2. Out-of-context Searches
When an app is finally integrated into the default search experience, then, you cannot search outside the context.
For example, if you are inside the Contacts app, you cannot start a search in Google, you can only search for a contact. You have to go to the “home”, and do a search from there. That’s crazy.
A good solution for this is to add search spaces. I makes perfect sense to set the in-context search as the default, but it should be relatively easy to fire an out-of-context one from anywhere.
3. Too Many Searches
The default browser’s address bar is actually a search box, but it also opens Google in the homepage (yes, another search box) and finally, you have the physical button in your device, to… well… start a new search. I know you can modify the homepage, and that the address bar actually has two functions but… still… 3 ways of searching it’s too much for a phone’s browser homepage.
Where is the minimalism we’ve learnt from Google? Maybe they should try a different home page or something…
4. The prostitution of the loupe icon.
I can imagine long discussions in the NexusOne team, defining how the search icon should look like: “Should we use the G? No, we will print Google in the back… What about a loupe? We are a search company and don’t use the loupe anywhere why should we use one in our first phone? etc, etc…“
They finally picked the loupe icon, and printed it in the device, to be used for search, everywhere.
However, one building away, the Google Maps team were using a slightly modification of the loupe icon, for zooming. It the same icon with ‘+’ character inside, but again…. If you are elevating the search as first class citizen, this is important. I don’t see buttons with apples everywhere in the iPhone. Furthermore, the Maps app also uses another loupe for search (yes the Google Maps app requires a chapter apart).
So, my suggestion for all of this would be to integrate all searches (i.e. you also have to add the “Find in page” feature in the Browser, etc), and offer different “search spaces” in a drop down instead of the voice search button (I will explain why in another point), and start forbidding the use of loupe icons in any app, starting by Mountain View.
What do you think?