By Keir Thomas
I’m starting to get the feeling that Google’s Websites are over-engineered–so much so that I’m feeling nostalgia for the days of simple search when you just typed what you’re looking for and got a page of results.
Alas, somebody at Google headquarters believes those days are long gone.
With this in mind, here are my top six Google annoyances.
1. Autocompleting Search Results
Yes, it’s clever of Google to make search results appear as I type–something they refer to as Google Instant. And now there’s Google Instant Previews. But I’m not that impatient, honestly; I have no issue with hitting the Google Search button.
As soon as I start typing at Google.com, the search box leaps to the top of the screen and the page appears to go crazy, flicking from one set of results to another as I type. Why? It’s enough to give a person eyestrain, especially those of us who are fast typists.
Google Instant massively confuses my parents who, throughout their lives, have been comfortable with a cause-and-effect approach to things. You press a button, and something happens. Things don’t start to happen while you’re in the process of pressing the button.
Google Instant can be turned off (go to Search Settings from a Google search page), but it’s a mighty bold move by Google to have it turned on by default. It’s neither necessary nor helpful.
2. Automatic Zoom in Image Search
I need to find a picture of a porcupine. Don’t ask why. I use Google Image Search and sure enough, it turns out the Internet is packed full of porcupine pics. I scan through the list with my eyes. However, because I’m a single-tasking fellow, I leave my mouse cursor still. Suddenly the image under the mouse cursor zooms into view, obscuring its neighbours. Argh! I have to stop doing what I’m doing, deliberately move the cursor out of the browser window (seriously?), and then begin looking through the images again–all to avoid a “helpful” image preview feature.
Preview zooming is really annoying and entirely unnecessary. If I want to see an image in bigger format, I’ll click on it. That’s how the Internet works. We click to make bigger when it comes to images.
3. Crazy Shopping
Let’s say I want to buy a MacBook. I go to Google Product Search and type “MacBook” into the search field. The results come back thick and fast, but the prices are randomly ordered; one model costing a few thousand dollars is listed alongside one at under a thousand dollars. The results are sorted by relevance, which is terrific, but I want a bargain.
I select “Price: Low to High.” The screen then fills with every type of add-on and device available for a MacBook, starting at one cent. These are products that merely have the word “MacBook” in their title or description. There isn’t an actual MacBook computer in sight, and I have to guestimate where, in the Goooooogle result pages, the listings of actual MacBooks start.
Google’s pretty good at this search business. They’ve built an empire on providing accurate results. Why can’t they include an option to “Sort by price: Low to High, with relevance?”
As it stands, unless the price of things is of no issue to you, Google Product Search is almost unusable.
4. Persistent Login
I like to remain logged in to my Gmail throughout the day, but this also means I have to stay logged into every other service offered by Google. I’m a little irked by the fact that this allows Google to log my search results against my username, but I can live with that.
Where it gets annoying is a situation like this: Sometimes I want to comment on a Blogger.com post anonymously but, again, I find that I’m already logged in. I have to log out of “Google”, which will automatically log me out of my e-mail, and then log back in again when I’ve finished typing my comment.
Seriously, giving each service a separate login would be much better–or at least logging somebody out of a particular Google service if they haven’t accessed it for, say, a few days.
5. The Cache That Isn’t
Clicking the Cached link below a search result was always a good way of seeing content that had been removed from a Website, or that is temporarily unavailable. In theory, it should show the page as Google last saw it, and which Google is basing its search results on.
However, unlike days of old, when I look at a cached page nowadays, my search term very rarely appears in it. Yet it does appear in the brief summary of the page included as part of Google’s search results.
I often feel cheated because not only is my search term not on the actual Website, but it’s not even in the Google cache–a double whammy. Effectively the link is a dud, and shouldn’t be in the results at all.
6. Google Maps Scrolling
Go to Google Maps. Search for something. Found what you want? Now use your mouse’s scroll wheel to scroll up or down the page. What the–? You’ll find that you zoom in or out of the map, rather than move the page up or down.
Why did Google change the behavior of something that’s clearly called the “scroll wheel?” Essentially they’re asking me to retrain myself to use the scroll wheel differently on their site. I just can’t do that. I use the scroll wheel throughout the day, and I just forget my learned behaviour for one site. As a result, I’m caught out each and every time.