Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dear Google Mail:

I have been a loyal user for more than five years now, and during that time we have happily...and effectively...shared the bond of English as our common tongue.

It appears, however, that you have begun taking language lessons, a la our erstwhile symbologist and musician, the singer formerly and presently (with a hiatus in between as a symbol) known as Prince. It didn't help his image or communication to become something unpronounceable that people had to stumble around to understand and/or articulate and, trust me, it's not helping yours, either.

There used to be a button with actual words on it...words that informed me of its purpose...that took me back to the inbox from an open email. There was no question in my mind when I wanted to go to the next mail which button to click. But recently I have found that button missing and in its place is a symbol that looks like the arrow on my enter key. How am I supposed to intuit the meaning of this symbol? I do not want to enter something, I just want to go back to the list of emails, ya know?

I may be a little late to the party here, since the first substitution I noticed was a replacement of the word "refresh" with the browser symbol for same. OK, a little more straightforward than the bent arrow, I must admit, but still not English...and still overlooked by the eye hunting for the button written in English that has been so clear and serviceable all these years.

I am sure that if you respond, it will be to tell me that you are changing this to make a single symbol-laden mail page for people of all languages, that making the interface in twenty gazillion languages is an unnecessary and undue burden on your resources. But when your attention goes to your bottom line at the expense of engaging your customers, you leave them little choice but to "vote with their feet" when the next latest and greatest alternative comes around. And it will--look what happened to MySpace when FaceBook reared its ugly head.

Facebook is digging itself a grave, one unwelcome change at a time and perhaps you should take notice of the dissatisfaction of its users...oh, you have--that's what Google+ is all about? Well, apparently you have missed the motivation for the customer dissatisfaction that will drive them out of Facebook's arms and into yours: gratuitous changes to the interface that the users don't like. It's not enough that the change somehow benefits the site, it must also be either explained to the users in terms that makes the change to their benefit or convenience or the benefit/convenience must be immediately apparent to the user. When a change renders an interface inconvenient, annoying, or cumbersome to the user, the user grumbles. When enough cavalier, grumble-worthy changes occur, the user begins looking for alternatives. Facebook opened its arms to those dissatisfied with MySpace but has committed an endless string of offenses in the eyes of its users and those people will migrate, without conscience, to Google+ if they perceive it to be more friendly to them and their concerns.

So, Google, let's not queer the deal before it even gets off the ground. Stop behaving like Facebook and changing things willy-nilly, putting your corporate objectives ahead of the preferences of your users. We don't like things that work to be changed unless the change is an improvement...and a symbol I cannot read and must ponder to decipher is not an improvement over a button clearly labelled in my mother-tongue.


Longtime user

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