What Google should have learned from Digg!

By: Daniel Imbellino
May 20, 2013

As we all know, Google recently changed the layout and interface behind its Google+ platform, Google plus icon Digg social icon but the question is, what for? So far its served no useful purpose to anyone, except for the fact that Communities now have prominent placement of their “About” sections, along with buttons to invite or share each community. The redesign so far has been a total flop, with tens of thousands of users complaining about how they hate the new interface and layout, while a few here and there have actually praised it. Either way it goes, Google’s decision to reinvent the wheel was clearly a bad choice, just ask Digg!

Apparently Google never heard of the term “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!” If Google had been paying more attention, they would know from the past that redesigning a website, application, or social media platform can have drastic consequences. Back in early 2010 Digg.com decided to redesign their entire platform from the ground up. They later launched the newly designed Digg August 25th of that year, and with drastic consequences as well. The new platform was overrun with problems from the get go, users were complaining of site-wide glitches that made the platform virtually unusable. Users even went as far as to express their anger by flooding Digg with Reddit posts, Digg’s ultimate competitor. Within 24 hours of launching their new interface, the front page of Digg was filled with spam from angry users, and the site lost over a third of its traffic. Unfortunately, despite even another redesign in 2012, Digg is yet to dig out of its grave!

The issue’s that encompassed Digg’s decision to reinvent the wheel should have been enough for Google to think twice before making so many drastic changes to its G+ social platform. Without a doubt network activity on Google+ had dropped by a lot more than a third overnight, try more like 60%, and users were lashing out against the search giant, complaining that many of the changes were unnecessary to begin with. Among an unpopular new interface they put into place lays a whole slew of bugs that send users to the wrong destinations, and cause applications not to load properly. Digg once had 236 million visitors annually, such as back in 2008, and they are yet to gain those numbers back, you'd think Google would have learned something from this!

While Google may have thought their new multi-column layout was a work of art, what they failed to realize is that it destroys a user’s focus! Trying to read one post that sits less than an inch from another is clearly distracting and hardly user friendly. Social platforms online are not newspapers, and we all know how crazy they get when it comes to trying to focus on anyone given subject. The new design is reminiscent of the App based interfaces of many leading tech sites like Mashable, which is now a train wreck of unrelated posts on their front page that cover every subject from the girl who gets her tooth pulled at the dentist, to what’s new with social media. Relevance hardly fits into Mashable’s content strategy today. If it’s not working for Mashable or Microsoft’s Window’s 8, then what made Google think that an app based layout would be successful on its platform as well? It’s obvious now that 90% of the changes made to Google+ did nothing other than hamper user interaction on the network, not excel it.

Too make matter even worse, Google obviously didn't take into account the fact that, not everyone has 20/20 vision, and throwing posts side by side probably isn't going to work well with older generations and those who suffer from various forms of visual impairment. The number one complaint I received from users during the years I spent as a PC tech were related to how many people compalimed they could not read text and or graphics properly due to their small sizes on most websites. Sure people can adjust there browser and operating system settings to enlarge fonts, etc, but why leave it up to the user to have to figure it out? When I make content, I make it work for everyone! Upon Google's redesign, one of the first things users noticed were the smaller posts, with smaller graphics. Clearly this was a bad idea on many levels, not just for those who have visual problems. Its bad enough they can hardly read the text, now you're hiding the graphics from them as well?

Like everything else in our lives, people get accustomed to doing things a certain way, and making changes too fast doesn’t exactly win over happy followers on the web, much less in real life. If I changed the design of my website three times in three years, I would only be surprised if my audience wasn’t pissed off. I guess some people never learn, and Google is apparently one of them! Innovation is a great thing, but is most likely best to be done gradually.

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