SEO

5 Major Google Gadgets Usability Flaws

The new Google Gadgets for the Google personalized homepage have gotten a lot of attention in recent months. True, they’re a factor in Google’s personalized search algorithm and many Google Gadgets are quite useful, however, some of the Gadget developers could use a lesson in usability.

As a new user of the personalized homepage, I was eager this week to try as many Gadgets as possible in hopes they would make my homepage work harder and smarter for me. My highest priority was finding a gadget to manage my to-do list. After checking out all the options, I chose 17 gadgets I thought I couldn’t live without and loaded them onto my page.

Quickly it became apparent exactly what I can live without and I promptly deleted nine unwieldy-looking gadgets.

In the interest of helping developers and users, I went back to all 17 gadgets and made an inventory of what made me race for the delete button.

Google Gadgets Gone Wrong: 5 Ways to Get Deleted Fast

Load with an “Access Denied” error. Oops! Someone didn’t QA very well. This to do list gadget loaded with “Access Denied” at the top. I couldn’t reach the delete fast enough.

bad google gadget accessdenied.thumbnail 5 Major Google Gadgets Usability Flaws View Google Gadget

Require inlining. The average user is not going to know what “inlining” is, and it looks suspicious when the Google gadget text loaded tells me the gadget’s author will have access to my Google cookies and preference settings for other modules. I’m guessing it would give access to something innocuous, such as my time zone, but it seems suspicious since most gadgets don’t require it. Goodbye, gadget.

bad google gadget inlining.thumbnail 5 Major Google Gadgets Usability Flaws View Gadget

Require personal information. Most Google Gadgets work without asking for my details. I caught myself saying “why should I give my precious email address when I can’t even tell which company is offering the gadget in the first place?” Off it went. Ideally you’ll design your gadget to not require my information, however, if you do, brand your Gadget so that it initiates trust. Lack of branding is a flaw in many of these early Gadgets, use the space widely, but include branding elements in your gadget.

bad google gadget email1.thumbnail 5 Major Google Gadgets Usability Flaws View Gadget

Make it hard to navigate When building a gadget, give it to someone unfamiliar with the personalized Google homepage. See if they can figure it out. A couple of offenses here: while one of the to-do lists had organized instructions, it instructed me to “click on edit, fill in only your email address and save.” This was my first real attempt to load up my personalized homepage and I couldn’t find the word “edit” anywhere. After the unsuccessful search for “edit”, this Gadget and I parted ways. I later realized, the “edit” option is hiding, you can find “edit” by clicking the down arrow in the upper right hand corner. Moral of the story: Be extremely clear, or you’ll lose your user.

bad google gadget edit1.thumbnail 5 Major Google Gadgets Usability Flaws View Gadget

Waste precious space. This issue came into play when looking at my horoscope. One of the horoscope gadgets was massive. On days my horoscope is short, lots of empty white space occupies the page. It didn’t take a crystal ball to see this gadget has no future on my page. Moral of the story: Google homepage real estate is precious so use it wisely.

bad google gadget realestate.thumbnail 5 Major Google Gadgets Usability Flaws View Gadget

There you have it. My first take on Google Gadgets. The good news is that you can take these tips and quite easily one-up your competing gadgets and get the highly desired space on more personalized Google home pages.

Next on my to-do list – to find a gadget to manage my to-do list.

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Jessica Bowman is the Director of SEO for Business.com and an independent consultant. Her background includes managing nine websites, in four languages across North America and Europe, in the competitive travel industry.

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11 thoughts on “5 Major Google Gadgets Usability Flaws

  1. For a good to-do list manager, check out RememberTheMilk.com – you can use it to create complicated to-do lists through the website, or simple to-do lists through a gadget you can add to your google homepage

  2. Anna and Matt – thanks for the suggestions, will check them out this weekend.

    I’m loving my Google Personalized Home Page, once you find the gadgets that work for you it’s like having my own news caster, weather man, dictionary, etc. It’s definitely starting to work for me.

  3. Dont use “Do 4 Me” – I did and periodicaly lost all my 2do items.
    I ended up going with “tadalists.com” for very simple todo lists – however no google gadget.

  4. I tend to trust Google as a company and don’t believe they would invade my privacy to any extent that it would offend or harm me.

    I suspect the author was referring to the Google Gadgets (eg. the Weather Gadget) rather than their apps or tools distinction.
    The Google Gadgets are often written by 3rd parties and submitted to Google.

    Because everyone else has ignored the distinction between gadgets, tools and apps i will do so too.

    As for their tools/gadgets/apps

    The ones I use a lot to quite a bit
    a) The personalised homepage is excellent.
    b) I have just started to use Google Notes. So far so good
    c) Google Desktop, Toolbar. etc is great.
    d) The Firefox plug in is also very useful
    e) YouTube is of course good.
    f) GMail is good but I don’t use it much as I have my own domain and lots of mail boxes.

    I would use the following if I did not get the Microsoft equivalents for free on our company home scheme.
    - Spreadsheet and Docs (Word and Excel)
    - Google Calendar (I use Outlook and Exchange)

  5. Sorry people did not ignore the distinction between Gadgets and Tools. Retract that comment of mine.

    I use quite a few gadgets on my personalised homepage

  6. I tried just adding a countdown clock gadget to one of my sites and it never loaded. I took it down on the same day. The service leaves a lot to be desired, although I’m testing a news feed gadget on another site. I’ve seen Perl-based third-party tools behave better.

  7. Jessica: try Toodledo if you are looking for a powerful, but easy to use to-do list tool. Toodledo also has a Google Personalized Homepage Plug-In.

    It’s free, but a pro-version is available as well. I have the pro-version, but I can’t remember the price (which means it was cheap as dirt, $20 a year or something like that. Don’t make me look for it hehe)

    Matt: Toodledo allows you to import you RememberTheMilk to-do lists and a lot of others as well :)

    In general: I would rather search for good tools first and then also check for those that have a Google Personalized Homepage plug-in.

  8. That’s right. Google always trys to develop ne w applications on internet. I like their attitude to thay. I’m not a follower of Google. I just like it. And I use quite a few gadgets on my personalised homepage

    (Test is successful…)

  9. I am loving my Google Personalized Home Page, once you find the gadgets that work for you it’s like having my own news caster, weather man, dictionary, etc. It’s definitely starting to work for me.

  10. The good news is that you can take these tips and quite easily one-up your competing gadgets and get the highly desired space on more personalized Google home pages.