Sunday, 15 April 2012

New Google Plus Layout: Bugs And Shrugs

Well Google Plus just changed its layout while Gmail is in the process of transition to a new look, whether I want it or not. 'Scuse me while I moan.

I'm a very firm believer in the old adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." And I like to have control over the way my e-spaces look, particularly if I have to pay with my privacy for the privilege. Now sometimes change can be good.

Google Plus

The advent of Google Plus as a haven of nerdity has been a good, good thing. I'm really enjoying it there and even the less enlightened contributors are fun. A recent conversation illustrates this perfectly:

G + Conversation

The rest of the time it's lolcats or nerd stuff since that's who I've circled. Anyway they've just changed the layout and I'm finding it annoying. One of the problems is that it seems they have forgotten that screen sizes have changed. Mine has gone from 1024 x 768 to 1600 x 900px and having a wider screen has brought up all kinds of issues I never realised I'd have to deal with. On a screen this size there's too much white space between the comments/status updates and the sidebar. There's an inner sidebar, too. It's short and displays the trends, You May Know and You Might Like, which actually makes it look a bit like Facebook. Apparently they're not planning to put ads on it but this is Google. It runs on ads.

They've shoved all the control buttons to the left and moved other items around. It's a disorienting experience and they really should have consulted us about it. As I said to one user, did they fire their UX team?

Google Plus

If you click on the image to enlarge it, you can see how the change has affected the way I use the service. Please bear in mind that I've used a Firefox plugin to alter the appearance of the page because it was driving me nuts before.

Item 1 is the control panel menu. You can click and drag the buttons to put them where you want them to be on that side.

Item 2 is the settings menu where you can choose between Settings, Help, Send Feedback, or Take A Tour.

Item 3 is where the YouTube button disappeared to.

Item 4.1 is Shareaholic, a Firefox addon I use to share posts I like to Twitter and Facebook.

Item 4.2 is Shareaholic Stats.

Item 5 is the User Styles plugin for Firefox.


I'm holding off on using the new look because, quite frankly, it sucks. I've already sent feedback asking for a customization option that permits me to set my own colours and backgrounds as before but to no avail. The settings button gives you a few options for pre-made themes but you can't really make it yours. User Styles has some templates, but true customization is hard because you have to know which bits of code to change and I don't. The only option you really have is to use Chrome, which gives you all the tools you need to customize your Gmail area, but I don't like Chrome and hate being herded. I'd rather do without than be forced to use Chrome. It's arrogant and presumptuous to say I have to use their crappy browser or be limited in what I can do with my User Interface on Gmail. I hope they'll reconsider it.

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