Tools · Web Hosting

Google Services Bugs and Usability Issues That Spoil My Holiday Spirit – Part I

It’s the end of the year and I have a little gift for Google for the year 2008. It’s a summary of issues and bugs I found in the various Google services, free and paid ones as well. Some are fresh and triggered this post and some others are older where I already send a feedback to Google in the past.

Google is obviously not used to deal with people and their best people for web usability must all be busy with the organic web search page. Okay, it is not easy to manage all the different new services and offerings that are partially in-house developed products and partially products and services that were acquired over the past few years. However, fundamental mistakes and errors should not happen, even under those circumstances. I was lucky today to bump into a whole chain of bugs and usability issues with Google’s Picasa, Google Checkout and Gmail. I also include some older issues, including ones with other Google services while I am at it. It comes down in total to SEVEN usability issues and FIVE real bugs for Picasa and Google Checkout alone.

It’s a long post, broken down into multiple parts and it is primarily written for Google.

If you encountered the same, similar or completely different issues, feel free to use this opportunity to let Google know about it by commenting to this post via the form provided at the end of this post.

Let’s start from the beginning. I have a regular Gmail account with an address at the gmail.com domain. This is an old account, which I created when Gmail was launched. I also have an account for “Google for your domain”, the hosting service provided by Google.

This is a service I pay money for. I also have a Google Picasa account with via my “Gmail.com” account and not my hosted one (Cumbrowski.com).

Google Picasa

I paid on December 28, 2006 for the upgrade to 10 GB for the Picasa account (free account has 1 GB limit), which also seems to automatically upgrade the storage for my normal Gmail.com account (I have to wait 1 day to be able to verify that. Explanation follows). The upgrade was purchased via Google Checkout.

I have today over 2 GB of pictures in my Picasa account. Okay, so far so good. I received over one month ago a friendly email from Google, which reads:

Subject: Google paid storage renewal notice (10 GB/yr for $20.00 US)
November 5, 2007

This is a friendly reminder from Google that your paid storage plan with us will renew soon. Here is your information:

Account: Carsten.Cumbrowski@gmail.com
Plan: 10 GB for 1 year paid storage
Price: $20.00 US

The renewal process is automatic — no action is required. We will charge your card on Dec 28, 2007.

Of course, we want to be sure we only charge your card if you are interested in renewing. If you would like to cancel your paid storage, you can do so by visiting the link below and selecting the basic plan.

https://www.google.com/accounts/PurchaseStorage

Thanks,
The Google Team

P.S. Need to update your credit card info?

1. Sign in at https://checkout.google.com
2. Click “Edit payment methods”, then click “Enter new billing information”
3. Click “Add a New Credit Card”.

Yeah, I followed the p.s. advice and specified a new credit card back then and after that forgot about it until weird things started to happen today (December 30, 2007. Note that today are two days past of the 1 year subscription period).

The first weird thing was that I was not unable to update any description for any web album. Every time I pressed save, an error screen appeared (bug #1). I had some problems with Picasa Web before and thought that they might use the holidays for an upgrade. I looked for any notes etc., but did not see anything.

tn google picasa update desc Google Services Bugs and Usability Issues That Spoil My Holiday Spirit – Part I tn google picasa 500 Google Services Bugs and Usability Issues That Spoil My Holiday Spirit – Part I

Then I launched Picasa for Windows on my PC. I wanted to upload a bunch of new images for some of my galleries. There I got the error message that my quota was exceeded.

google picasa win quota exceeded Google Services Bugs and Usability Issues That Spoil My Holiday Spirit – Part I

Huh? I did not recall seeing anything on the Picasa website and I did also not receive any email today or yesterday regarding the expiration of my quota. Furthermore, wasn’t it supposed to renew itself or did I read the email from November 5th incorrectly?

I looked again on the website and looked and looked and then saw something weird in the footer in tiny letters and only on the private overview screen with ALL galleries.

tn google picasa footer Google Services Bugs and Usability Issues That Spoil My Holiday Spirit – Part I

You don’t see it anywhere else, not within the galleries, the public galleries overview and not even on the settings page. The message could not have been hidden any better. I guess the users are not supposed to see it or something like that (usability issue #1). Well, the message made clear that the automatic renewal did obviously not work and my storage expired without any warning or notice (bug #2). Luckily for me, next to that message was also a link to upgrade the storage.

Google Checkout

I clicked on the link and was taken to Google checkout. I was using Internet Explorer and the screen I got looked like this (bug #3).

tn google checkout picasa ccugmail Google Services Bugs and Usability Issues That Spoil My Holiday Spirit – Part I

Notice anything? Right, the checkout button is disabled and it does not show any billing and payment information. There is also not even an error message that indicates this issue (bug #4). A link to update the billing information is missing too (usability issue #2).

I had to abandon the checkout process, which was a dead end at this point anyway and went to my Google account to check my Google Checkout information. I did specify payment methods and billing and shipping information and as you can see on my purchase history, it worked before, even with the updated credit card.

tn google checout payment methods Google Services Bugs and Usability Issues That Spoil My Holiday Spirit – Part I tn google checkout purchasehistory Google Services Bugs and Usability Issues That Spoil My Holiday Spirit – Part I

I had a hunch and loaded up Firefox to go through the same process. This time the shopping card shows a payment method and also the checkout button is enabled.

tn google checkout with ff Google Services Bugs and Usability Issues That Spoil My Holiday Spirit – Part I

I completed the checkout but I still have the same problems as before. The storage is also not upgraded and nothing indicates that there was an upgrade purchased and pending (usability issue #3). The Picasa page shows friendly the link to buy just another upgrade. I don’t think so.

Okay, it stated that the upgrade of the storage will take up to one day, but I thought that in my case the upgrade is more of a renewal rather than a new upgrade. I mean my Picasa albums use up already over 1 GB of the extra storage (usability issue #4).

Google Storage in General

It seems that even though the subscription expired and I did not pay for the additional storage that Google did not delete any of my stuff. I hope that it is really the case and not just look like it. I will find out eventually. I started thinking about what could be happening with my Google Hosted account and storage when it is due to renew (I need to check that right away).

This experience did not increase my confidence into Google. If Google wants to get serious about this potential market and make people feel comfortable to use the storage and web enabled applications without fearing for their data, this does certainly not help, on the contrary.

P.S. Another Picasa Suggestion

I have some additional suggestions for Google Picasa, but will only mention the most critical ones to keep it short.

Show the file name and resolution of an image in the galleries and detail pages. Show the information right beneath the image in a smaller font or at least in the tooltip of the image if you hover over it. Also show it in the tooltip if you organize images of a gallery. This is easy to do and helps a lot for several reasons. A) De-duping is easier, which is a manual job anyway, since you do not provide much help and tools to prevent it or clean it up. B) I often use descriptive file names for images. This is helpful if you don’t have the time to enter the same again manually for the description or tags.

Cheers and Happy Holidays!
Carsten Cumbrowski

Update 1/1/2007: It has been two days now since I renewed my storage upgrade and 4 days since Google was supposed to renew the subscription automatically. My paid for storage is still not available to me . So much for the plans to clean up and update my online galleries. :(

e6149739a0ceadb8fde822225838bd26 64 Google Services Bugs and Usability Issues That Spoil My Holiday Spirit – Part I
Carsten Cumbrowski has years of experience in Affiliate Marketing and knows both sides of the business as the Affiliate and Affiliate Manager. Carsten has over 10 years experience in Web Development and 20 years in programming and computers in general. He has a personal Internet Marketing Resources site at Cumbrowski.com. To learn more about Carsten, check out the "About Page" at his web site. For additional contact options see this page.

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7 thoughts on “Google Services Bugs and Usability Issues That Spoil My Holiday Spirit – Part I

  1. Google clearly indicates that a storage purchase (i.e. 10 GB) will be shared across Google services (i.e. Gmail, Picasa, etc.)

  2. Thanks Joseph, I thought so too, but wasn’t 100% sure when I wrote the post so I wanted to make sure that nobody hangs on that and forgets about the actual and real issues that I pointed out in the post. Well, that’s settled then.

    What do you think about the rest (the suggestions)?

    Cheers!

  3. I’m completely onboard with you for both posts.

    What do you think the likelihood of Google addressing these issues? Personally I think they’ll get to everything ”someday”, but it won’t be in a timely manner.

  4. The severe bugs I hope will be resolved within the next days. Some of the simple usability improvement recommendations may be week, the rest months or “never”.

    I posted a message with links to posts to Google via the feedback form on their site and also emailed somebody at Google from a different department. That might helps to speed up the awareness time of the responsible departments at Google.

  5. Well, I just found this post by googling (how ironic!!) for “picasa storage renewal fail”. I have exactly the same issue you describe above. I bought the 10GB extra storage Jan 1st last year, got the automated renewal email as you did assuring me everything would be done automatically…

    Went to upload photos today only to find I get the quota exceeded message. Log on to Picasa to see my storage is back down to defaults. Unlike you I haven’t changed my card details in Checkout and the card is working fine as I use it for other things. This is backed up by the fact that the purchase history in Checkout shows no attempt to take the automated 20USD renewal.

    I tried to do the upgrade manually via Checkout, but the transaction fails with a message along the lines of the one you got – something about the transaction already being attempted?

    I’m usually a big fan of Google products, but sadly they seem to have dropped the ball on this.

    I am now concerned that maybe my valuable (to me) pics aren’t in as safe hands as I assumed. I mean how hard can it be to manage an automated subscription renewal – its not rocket science…

    I have emailed via the contact links, but just getting a slew of automated responses so far – I hope to eventually actually get through to a person at Google… although I am not holding my breath.

    This kind of paid for service needs to be seamless if Google want to do well. The competition is only a mouse click away… might be time to resurrect that Flickr pro account.

  6. Today I am in exact same situation as Chris describes. My Picasa storage annual renewal just do not work. More than 500 hrs have passed but in Checkout page there is still sign that “Wait up to 24 hrs” and I cannot even check for another plan. Just now I wait response from picasa-support. Their help promises to answer in 3 business days. So 1 day left so far. If anybody has got fix for this problem please share your experience. I have been big fan google services but this kind of service for paying customer is just dissapointing.

  7. For those who discover themselves in same desperate situation. Today, after some picasa help forum posts and after some reply’s to picasa-support robo-mail I finally received Checkout receipt and I can see my bought plan from Checkout page. I hope I can access my storage very soon.