Apple: Thanks for buying 100s of dollars of stuff you love.
Google has just made some changes to the documents list in Google Docs. They’re not bad changes, really. Perhaps the main issue they solved was the inconsistencies in interface between Google Docs and GMail: now the two look nothing alike, so it’s acceptable that the function differently.
Now I look back through my archives, it seems I never got around to writing a post about the myriad inconsistencies between Google Docs and GMail. I saw the inconsistencies as a sure sign that Google separates its developers and doesn’t let them talk to each other. I touched on it a bit in my comparison of Sony and Google.
Yet even with this change, inconsistencies are still rife. The one thing they kind of fixed was the annoying difference between the selection check-boxes in the two apps. In GMail, the method for selecting all was quite intelligent, requiring just a single click in the check-box at the top of the list. Alternatively, you could drop down a menu from the check-box button that allowed advanced selections. Google Docs allowed no such advanced selection, and, furthermore, required two clicks just to select all: click on the button then click on the option to select all. So, thankfully, that inconsistency is gone… yet only because they made Google Docs less like GMail, not more like it.
I don’t see why the interface for Google Docs couldn’t have been brought closer to that of GMail. Now, there’s a whole new method of interaction I need to learn. How do I select all docs now? There doesn’t seem to be an obvious way. Not that I want to do that too often, but it seems odd considering how easy it is to do in GMail.
Still, it’s at least no longer inconsistent, it’s just different. But there’s plenty of other differences that strike a design-oriented person such as myself as odd. They may not inhibit usability like the check-box button did, but they still show that the Google design teams (such as they are) don’t share anything between themselves. Here’s a couple of comparisons:
- The search bars
The top bar is GMail’s and the bottom is Google Docs’. You’d think for something as central to Google’s brand as the search bar, they’d have a common control to share amongst products. But they don’t even seem to be using a shared style sheet. The only similarities are the height of the bar and the font family for the button text. Everything else is different: the font colours for both buttons and links, the link styles, the button shading, the radius of the buttons’ rounded edges, and even the colour of the inner border of the search bar itself.
- Sidebar navigation
GMail is on the left and Google Docs is on the right. The difference in styles here is even more remarkable. It’s almost like one team saw a picture of the other teams’, tried to copy it, then changed a few bits to not make it obvious they had copied. The selected item is completely different: in GMail, it is Bold, and the background melds nicely into the border of the main content pane. Google Docs has nothing like this. Even the border of the main content pane is a different width. In Gmail, the Starred items has a star; in Google Docs it does not. In GMail, the trash is called “Bin”, in Google Docs it is called “Trash” (this is possibly a localization difference… and if so, why?). The button shape, size, colour, and shading is different. Even the hovered item background colour, which looks similar, is a slightly different shade of blue. Why?
It seems baffling to me that a company that prides itself on the careful attention to detail in the design of the search page seems to be completely oblivious of the little details in so many other areas. At the very least it’s bizarre that they don’t share their style sheets to avoid having to re-do all the work again.