The New Refreshed Documents List is DREADFUL
I have cross posted this from the Google Docs Blog to here in the hope that someone from Google will reconsider many of the changes that have been made in the latest refresh of the Google Documents List. And I am not a lone voice in expressing these thoughts.
The more I have used the new Google Docs list, the more frustrated I have become. Instead of trying to harmonise with other Google web apps and use a similar user interface (Gmail is the outstanding example), the Google Docs team seems to have gone out of its way to make Google Docs look and work differently.
GOOD (let's try to be balanced)
1) The application does seem quicker. That's good!
2) The Home view is probably useful.
3) The change by renaming Folders to Collections is OK. Not sure why you need to do that but it's not a big deal for me.
4) Label Colouring. The strip of color to the left of the label instead of the entire label being coloured makes it harder to see at a glance what labels are applied to a document. This is particularly true for labels with similar colours (e.g. differing shades of green). Why change something that worked perfectly well and was the same in Google Docs and Gmail?
5) Wasted White Space. There is a now a vast waste of screen real estate. Much of the information that used to be visible on screen for every document has been relegated to the right-hand side panel which means that you have to select each document before you can see the information. This is a complete pain and applies to points 6 - 8 below:
6) Sharing Icons. You have taken away the very helpful icons that showed at a glance the sharing settings for each document. Why? This is really daft.
7) Last Editor. Same thing. Now you have to click each document (being careful not to accidentally open it) to see who last modified it.
8) Date and Time. Same thing. Ludicrous, really.
9) Folders or "collections" appear in the document list. As Greg (in the Google Docs Blog) has said, this is a complete pain. I notice that they now also appear in the old version's documents list too. Why?
10) No check boxes. It is not any easier to select several files at once (by holding down the control key and clicking). Why did you not take the opportunity to use Gmail's method of retaining check boxes and using Gmail's new checkbox-cum-dropdown control to select/deselect all files and for other options?
Gmail's method also has the big advantage that you can use the keyboard to move up and down the list (with the "j" and "k" keys) and tick those files you want by using the "x" key. To my knowledge there is no keyboard equivalent for moving up and down and selecting in Google Docs.
11) Organise Collections. Again you could have used Gmail's excellent method of applying labels to documents by dragging and dropping. But you've chosen a much worse way to do things. It's as if there is no one responsible for encouraging the various application teams to harmonise user interfaces between the apps. If there is someone in that role, then that person is not doing a very good job.
12) Separation Lines. As another user, Scott Juster, has said in the Google Docs Blog, the absence of any separation lines between documents makes the information that much harder to read and absorb.
13) Refresh Link. This has been removed but the document list does not automatically refresh after making an edit to a document. You now have to resort to F5 to get a refreshed view of the document list.
14) Document Icons. They are significantly smaller and therefore less easy to take in at a glance. Why tinker?
Do you actually test any of this with real-world users outside the Google environment? It doesn't look like it. Read the detailed and well-meaning and constructive critical messages in the Google Docs Blog and PLEASE TAKE NOTE. These are serious users who you should be listening to. I think it would be difficult to mess up things much more than you have done. Surely you can do better than this?!
I would be interested in seeing Mr Vijay Bangaru's (Google Docs Product Manager?) justification for all these changes.
The biggest problem, for me, is the inability to 'select all' files at once, and the inability to select multiple files at once without having to remember a keyboard shortcut.
But, really, every point you raise here is a good one.
Thanks for highlighting these common problems. Hopefully someone from Google will read this and take it to heart.
And, yes, if we don't complain - when it's justified - nothing happens. I am sure we like intelligent and useful changes as much as anyone - but these changes are, for the most part, pretty dumb.
Gmail, as you all said, has been designed for high usability. The new Google Docs look, on the other hand, has probably never gone through any significant usability studies.
If the Google News redesign fiasco from some months ago is anything to go by, we will have to see thousands of complaints, and be mentioned in a numerous news headlines and hundreds of blogs, to get Google's attention. Let's get started. Go to your local street corner and get the petitions signed. Contact your local newspaper and ask them to write an editorial. Post on your blog. Fly an airplane with a banner. Shave your head and paint 'Google Docs redesign sucks' on it. We have work to do.
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