Posting Date: September 23, 2002
Dilbert does interface design -- Jack apologizes to anyone who is psychologically affected in a negative manner by Scott Adams' outlook on life. (Jack Comments: Now a discussion of changes made to news.google.com)
Off the topic of Dilbert, but onto UI design, check out the new feature on Google - http://news.google.com/
Thoughts? Perhaps a nice one for discussion John?
Interesing stuff - http://news.google.com/help/about_news_search.html
I preferred the old google news design.
Now it looks like they are copying other news portals rather than offering their usual brand of simplicity.
and moreover have been doing this for years.
I do like the alert of *when* the link was added e.g. 10 minutes ago. Don't think I have seen this before.
Satan has infiltrated the Google ranks to produce the news interface from Hell.
They are at the edge of the abyss. This is their defining moment. Their only hope is for redemption before this behemoth leaves the larva stage known as "beta."
Google isn't just about good search results. It's also about the simple interface. Now Google looks like everyone else - bloated with maggots feasting on the decaying flesh of the damned.
To say it in a manner that will not offend my critics:
1) Complex interface, reminiscent of many other news sites.
2) Google is shifting from search engine to content presentation. This is a fundamental change in focus.
a) Version 1: I search for news links.
b) Version 2: Google shows me news links.
Sure, I can still search for news, but the obvious shift in focus is toward presentation.
3) A news site incorporates "news judgement" in its ranking and handling of news. Google is handling news by way of engineers, with the false assumption that mob mentality is good (mob = the majority of news sites).
In some vague way this reminds me of the magazine cover discussion. If Google ranked magazine covers we would primarily see celebrity covers because those covers represent group think of the majority of magazine publishers.
4) Now that Google is in the Presentation Game, how long will it be before Google adds weather forecasts, movie showtimes, etc.? It will begin with services such as weather.google.com and movies.google.com. Google has just been taking its time turning itself into Yet Another Portal™.
(I made those links active for the benefit of future users reading this message in the WebWord archives, so that they can more easily visit their favorite source for weather and popular culture.)
If Google wants to do something powerful, it should provide a backward view of news. Scour the entire web and rank news stories based on what news articles individuals are linking to. That has a better chance of bringing minority opinion to the top. The most important stories I read are rarely on CNN's or MSNBC's front page - or they are there for only a few hours and then buried.
Lest my 'minority opinion' remark be misunderstood... minority opinion is significant because of "group think" that exists in today's news organizations. More importantly, there's nothing new in Google's mirroring group think. I can already obtain that by visiting any news web site. Big whoop. So my real point with that remark is that Google is being unoriginal.
I agree that the new Google News is a fundamental change from search to presentation. However, News is fundamentally different from Google's other services because it's time dependent (like Movies and Weather), and presentation is key with time dependent services. In Google Web Search, Google Images, Google Groups or Google Directory, the user is searching for web pages, images, group listings and directory listings that are related to a search term. In the case of Google News, I believe that most users be much more inclined to browse than search, which is probably why they they've stuffed so much onto one page.
Yes, the interface could be greatly improved. I just wanted to explore the basis for the big switch in the context of Google's other services.
News is time dependent, yes, but I was already served by the search box. I got timely news through the search box. If I wanted to be shown news -- instead of search for it -- I would use my preferred news web site. What we're discussing is fundamental change -- because Google has shifted to a different user purpose - a different audience. That's why I make the distinction about this being a presentation. It is another gleaming example of feature creap away from Google's main purpose - being a search engine, not a directory, not a portal.
The larger issue is sustainable development. If Google wants to court investors, it will have to break Rule #6 -- "You can make money without doing evil."
Why? First, my definition of evil is not as simplistic as banner ads and in-your-face Flash advertisements. Evil is also degradation of service.
Google is compelled to keep churning out new services, or "bigger and better" services, to keep investors happy. That is a fundamental fact of corporate culture. You must also be growing in size, services and profitability.
At some point Google will "jump the shark" into evil. Will there be a time when Google says to itself, "We're damn good. Let's keep what we have and refine it. Make what we have better, and not build more. If we build more, it will be only after considerable, heart-wrenching thought and debate." Will that happen? No. Google will ruin itself. Google is powerful. It is a corporate creature. It's only a matter of time, despite anyone's best intentions.
Damn, I got me a spider monkey to edit my posts, but all he does is fling poop.
In the second to last paragraph: You must always be growing in size, services and profitability.
Come on, how long will it take for someone to simply say:
Timo, thanks for the link. I do find the new format very disconcerting. I've always really liked Google's simple layout. It's nice to have things arranged by category and get all the news up front, but what a headache inducer that packed-to-the-gills site is. Screw it, I'll get my news elsewhere.
Gnews: Have been using the Beta 5 to 10 times a week for the past few months. Dont like the new one, but I'm not sure why yet. Need to ruminate on it.
Onto Original Topic: Real Life Dilbert 'Designed' Interface
I haven't make anyone sick (yet) with my lurid unprofessional looking interfaces. But does it matter if I produce 'roadkill' interfaces if they work?
Mac, this goes along with my "people will put up with a whole lot of ugly if they get the information or service they want" statement. (I can't find that thread. WebWord needs a comprehensive on-site search option, even if it's slow. I can't wait a month for Google to catch up.)
Mac, when I think of interface, I think of the way someone interacts with the program, so I separate that from design.
Therefore, to answer your question "But does it matter if I produce 'roadkill' interfaces if they work?" I would rather use an unattractive program (or visit a plain website) than a slick one that frustrates me when I try to get anything out of it.
A well-functioning program (or easy-to-use website) is a must for me. It draws a parallel to the way many people feel about customer service: you may have the most frustrating service or product on earth, but if your customer support is excellent, I am more likely to stay your customer longer than I will for a company with a good product that doesn't think I'm important.
"I haven't make anyone sick (yet) with my lurid unprofessional looking interfaces. But does it matter if I produce 'roadkill' interfaces if they work?"
Yes. It matters a lot. The choice of colours/fonts/layout affects readability, usability (where/how to look/click) and the whole impression a system gives the user (whether you or the users are aware of it or not).
The "Real Life Dilbert 'Designed' Interface" would benefit immensely from a better colour scheme (lots of fully saturated primary/secondary colours almost always looks bad), good consistent styling and a tidier layout.
I'm certainly not saying it's bad, or should be filled with overbearing graphics, I'm just saying it could be better.
We need to remember the new design is still a beta. If you feel strongly about the change (the old is better from a scanability view point), voice your concerns direct to Google.
I do believe they still listen.
I sent them the URL to this discussion. We shall see.
Before they were big, I always received a response. I have not received a response in (?) more than a year, and some messages I feel strongly deserved some form of acknowledgement. (I'm also still waiting for my promised Google t-shirt. I suppose I'll receive it when I'm 65, when it is found hoarded away with a ton of other parcels in some deceased postal worker's house.)
Jack wrote: "WebWord needs a comprehensive on-site search option, even if it's slow."
WebWord needs a lot of things, Jack.
Freeware Perl search scripts are easy to come by. You used to have an on-site search. It was slow, but in cases like this would surpass Google in usefulness. Just providing feedback.
John ... you could always use Google? What topic are we on again? *swats fly*
I'm going to disagree with the general trend here: I like the new Google News.
I hadn't seen the old version (as linked to in Timo's comment), but the new version doesn't force you to abandon the search results style. Sure, you can view the portal pages, crammed with headlines and links. But type in a search query, and you get "Google Classic" search results, just as normal.
Unlike other posters, I was not aware of Moreover.com. But I do often want to search for news items, and I usually do it on Google. In the past, this was frustrating because genuine "new" news items were mixed in with ordinary search results. Now, you can choose to filter out the rest of the web, and zoom in on results that are recent and relevant.
For example, if I want to find the details of the "dossier" of intelligence on Iraq that the British Government has just published, I could go to the BBC web site, or the Guardian, or even the UK government's pages. I know I'll find links to the document from there.
"Dossier" is the key word on everyone's lips at the moment in Britain. Type "dossier" into the main Google search, and it doesn't return anything relevant to today's document. Switch to News search, and it comes up instantly. Top result, as well as the vast majority of the rest of the links on the first page of results.
I like that. That's a service I will use, and will become used to having. As Joshua said, the fundamental difference here, the new service on offer, is time dependence. I also actually like their headline/portal pages, in particular the sheer density of stories and links. In my book, "dense" does not necessarily mean "bad".
Perhaps what they're doing is not entirely innovative. In a way they're creating a service like Daypop or Blogdex, but applied to mainstream news sources rather than Blogs. They're putting their finger on the pulse of mainstream web media, and allowing us to tap into that.
Right now, I don't think that's a bad thing. But just as Microsoft has leveraged its monopoly position on the desktop to enter and conquer other markets, Google may be in a similar position with regard to its search facilities.
It would be a real shame if they turned evil. Stay good, Google, stay good!
(Oh, and re. search facilities on Webword... Movable Type 2.5 will offer search a search facility that was previously available as a plug-in. Is all the the webword content in MT now, or is some of it still outwith its database?)
Has anyone else had "interface poisoning"?
I get it on webword every day. Lime green! Aargh! My eyes! My Eyes!
I get it on webword every day. Lime green! Aargh! My eyes! My Eyes!
You could always set up a separate style sheet for WebWord. That seems to be a popular suggestion.
Is's not Lime Green, it's 'Hulk Green', and I love it.
That's exactly what I was hoping you'd say, Mac.
The Google News interface has too many thumbnails. As I scroll down the page, I'm looking at the thumbnails instead of the headlines. I keep having to correct myself so I don't waste time.
Think how compact and simple the page would be if it contained no thumbnails and no paragraph summaries. Far more powerful.
I *have* set up a stylesheet: the limegreen is hard coded in the page; thus no way of getting rid of it.
Timo, you're in luck. In IE, simply click Tools > Internet Options > Accessibility and check "Ignore colors specified on web pages." Problem solved.
Jack, you could always set up a separate stylesheet for Google news to hide the images for you. Or you could use Opera, which makes it easy to turn images on/off for a page...
Yes, yes, let's set up style sheets for every web site we visit. It will alleviate any sense of wrongdoing for web designers and let them sleep better at night.
did they get back to you?
Who? Google? Of course not. I haven't heard back from Google on issues in a long time.
I would love to start an ongoing (never-expiring) thread about what's needed to unseat Google as "King of Search." I predict there will be a coup attempt within 12 months.
Damn, it's a shame when you can't talk about search engines without sounding like you're sending covert terrorist communications.