5 Reasons Why Google Plus Sucks

[Note: Since the time of writing Google has implemented several changes to Google+, so some of what you read will be a little out of date. An update is coming soon, but right now just man up and deal with it.]

Recently I've been experimenting with Google's new social networking 'phenomenon' Google+. After a just few minutes, it left me disappointed. However, in the spirit of fairness, I decided to wait a few days to see if Google+ would grow on me...it did not.

I should point out that Google+ is still in Beta testing, so there's still plenty of time for it to improve. I should also point out that despite there being over 10 million users already, at the moment I only have a handful of friends (cries whilst reaching for tub of ice cream), and I'm sure the more friends you have on it, the better the experience is.

That being said, the site still has some very basic problems that make it clearly inferior to Facebook in my opinion. So without further delay here are my 5 reasons why Google+ sucks...

1. It's Ugly

My immediate gut reaction to Google+ was: 'Wow, this is bland'. Now whilst  I'm clearly not a pro in the web design department, like most web users I know the difference between an ugly website and an attractive one. Google+ is bland, ugly, and just not nice to look at in general.
Being a British man I'm more than familiar with the colour beige. We invented it. When I got back from university I found my room had been repainted beige to increase my house's 're-sale value'. So when I say adding just a splash of beige to Google+ would be like giving crack cocaine to Al Gore without the come down, you know it's pretty damn bland*.


Not only is the ugliness aesthetically displeasing, but it interferes with the site's basic functionality. The news feed (which Google+ calls the 'stream' probably to avoid inspiring a lawsuit and "The Social Network 2: Zuckerberg Strikes Back") isn't really given it's own space. Instead it just sort of blends in with the sidebars, making it difficult to read. 


There's a difference between 'minimalistic' design (e.g. Facebook) and 'minimal' design, (e.g. a blank sheet of paper). Google+ fails to pull off the clean and stylish Facebook type interface that it's clearly going for



2. No Writing On The Walls

Google+ steals from Facebook left, right and center. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, everyone borrows ideas from competitors .The least they could do is get it right.

One thing that Google+ hasn't lifted from Facebook (yet) is the ability to write on a person's wall. Writing on walls may not seem a crucial part of Facebook, but as soon as I found out I couldn't, I missed it

My GCSE art teacher strikes again.
Limiting the way in which people interact on a social network seems kind of stupid.  Writing on people's walls is an important feature, more personal than tagging someone in a status and more social than sending someone a private message. It seems like an easy enough feature to fix with an update,  begging the question why wasn't it there in the first place?


3. No -1
Instead of 'liking' things on Google+, you '+1' them. However in actuality the two are a little different, and Google's system has a big flaw. You may have noticed this symbol popping up on websites and in Google searches recently:


No one 'likes' things these days. Plus one is where it's at. 
 
  As you can see from the image, whilst 'liking' stuff is shorthand for 'I approve of/I enjoy this', '+1-ing' stuff is more akin to 'I recommend this'. Obviously It's cool to be able to see who +1's what  just from the search results page. Pretty much anything can be liked these days via Facebook, but the ability to see how many +1's a page has instantly is a huge advantage.

Unfortunately this takes us back to the age old 'Facebook should have a dislike button' argument . Whilst I don't think it's really necessary for Facebook to have one, for Google it really is a must. Especially if the speculation is true and  the number of +1's a page has from your peers will eventually  affect its Google ranking. 

Example: You're searching for articles about the holocaust. Your friend Billy has given a site a +1; in your mind this registers as "One friend has seen this and he/she approves." In actuality dozens of friends could have seen this and hated the article which is full of subtle anti-Semitic propaganda. However, Billy (a closet racist in this scenario) is the only one who can actually voice his/her opinion, because Google only provides an outlet for approval, not disapproval. Less of a criticism of Google+, more a criticism of Google's plans for world domination in general, but it still sucks.  

4.  Messaging
Again, it seems Google+ has gotten it's priorities wrong when borrowing from Facebook. Google+ has no integrated messaging system...sorta. That is to say, whilst strictly speaking messaging is lacking there are actually two options if you want to send a direct message to someone:
You can Either use the new Google navbar (how ugly is that by the way) to switch to Gmail which, lets face it, is just cheating. Or, you can use Google's new 'circles' system. To achieve the second method, you write a post in the stream,  but before publishing make it viewable only to the person in question, then tag them in the post so they receive a notification. Not only is this method contrived, but having your messages simply there in the news feed makes them feel much less private than those on Facebook. Personally I'd feel uncomfortable sending a private message via that method. What if the person I'd sent it to wasn't alone when loading up Google+? It could lead to some embarrassing situations.

Though hopefully not as embarrassing as this.
5. The Navbar Sucks. 

Besides the general ugliness, the navbar sucks. Not because it's bad exactly , but because Google have missed out on the opportunity to create something great. Here's what the navbar looks like now:

Why did they choose black? Seriously... why?
Once you're signed in to a Google+ account your name appears in the navbar as well. Now, here's my take on things: Google is trying to provide everything you could possibly need on the web. They got into web docs, blogging platforms, YouTube, and now, social networking. What would set Google+ apart from Facebook is if you could get all of these things and more in one place. If web users are after anything it's convenience. Facebook is convenient in that it gives you all your friends in one place. One place to go to know what's happening in your social circle. What if in that same place you had access to all your documents? Or e-mails? Or RSS feeds?

In my optimism I assumed that's what this navbar would do. I'd be on my profile, click on Docs, edit a document, get a notification, switch to my profile, switch back to docs and pick up exactly where i left off, in the same window, just switching between various parts of the Google navbar. Is this the way it works? ...No.

Instead, every time I click one of those buttons it opens in a separate tab, isolated from my Google+ profile, which is way more annoying than it sounds. It stops Google+ potentially surpassing Facebook . The current system lets you access all sorts of stuff from one place; but they're not in one place.

Integrating these Google products successfully is the key to Google+'s future. If you could access all these things without leaving your profile isolated in another tab, +'s arsenal would immediately outclass Facebook's. And why not go even further? If Google+ plans to compete with twitter surely integrating Google Reader into the news feed would be a logical step in the right direction.

Conclusion

What's so frustrating about Google+ isn't how much it sucks, it does it's job and could be described as Facebook and twitter's ugly cousin,which isn't as much of an insult as it sounds. What is frustrating is how much potential Google+ has that's been wasted for no apparent reason. Many of the things I've mentioned are basic aspects that are fundamentally wrong, and easily fixed. However, looking for the silver lining Google+ is still in testing, so there's hope that someday, they'll get it very right. 
 

*The colour beige was actually named after a man called 'Professor Von Beige'. How good is that?  



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