Friday, November 13, 2009

Trouble with Google Sites while reporting trouble with Google Sites

I was willing to stop posting small bloopers, like program errors, and focus on more interesting things like the end of the document era.
But it's not possible yet, or ever. Especially the day after having read the Google phrase "Saving the world, one line of code at a time". I seems I always stumble upon the "other" code lines.
Let's go to the point: there is a small issue in Google Sites. We are spoiled by one of Gmail's huge usability steps, the organization of email threads as "conversations".
As always happens with software enhancements, the novelty quickly becomes mainstream and the prior state of the art is forgotten.
Except for a piece of software in Google Sites, the one that sends the change notifications. Actually, it does conversations every now ahd then, whimsically.

See a screen snapshot of said emails in the inbox of my Gmail account:

As you can see the picture has two dimensions: height and width. Both are too big.

Height is too much

Height must be reduced by lumping together all the messages related to one page. For example "Novedades IxDA" apperas 4 times, "Anuncios Generales" appears 10 times, ans so on. The first 48 entries, if properly aggregated in conversations, would be only 21: less than half of the height.
I noticed that getting to read and actionate on these emails is a burden. Other users expressed the same so I decided to blog this in an attempt to help to get it fixed. Prior to writing tis post I added a "question" in the support forum (there is no public bug traqcher). If you feel so open it and add your own comments or support mine.

Width is also too much

Width is also an issue. Notice that to find out what is an email about I have to scan horizontally a lot of "noise" text, more or less up to the yellow vertical line.

A usability suggestion

So I suggest that Sites reorganizes the email subjects thus:
[IxDA Buenos Aires] A comment was added to Día Mundial de la Usabilidad y Contacto entr...? - John Doe
[IxDA Buenos Aires] Día Mundial de la Usabilidad y Contacto entr...? [comment added by John Doe]

That is, put first the interesting part of the subject "Día Mundial ..." so the user can get to if after having quickly skipped the "[IxDA Buenos Aires]" tag. Else the user in informed thar a comment was added to ... never mind (a page she is not interested in).
As you can see there is a vertical yellow line approximately dividing the noise from the information. It leaves approximately 43% of the width at its left, the noise part. I'm somehow cheating here, because all the tags to the left should not count, but anyway ...
Another enhancement would be to hide the [IxDA Buenos Aires] tag, redundant with the sender and the colored [IxDA-BA] tag.

The issue with the issue

While trying to add a "question" in the support forum I ran into further issues, this time with the support site.

Encouraged by the phrase "The more you tell us, the more likely you will get a great answer" and willing to see a great answer I prepared a nice posting with the content of the inbox image in text, carefully edited and trimmed, using the text editor I prefer.

I pasted the text and clicked the "Post question" button. Only to learn that they didn't want to be told issues in so much detail. Silly me, I didn't read the page in detail, it must be my fault ... but wait! it is not said in the page, there was no coutdown visible!
Anyway I edited the text well below the 8192 characters limit and posted again. Same result.
After many trim and try cycles the post was accepted. It was about 4500 characters long by then. I didn´t post the issue found while posting the issue.

A better world

Google speas about saving the world, one line of code at a time and I think it's right and that they really mean it. And in fact some Google products are so carefully crafted that it is a pleasure to use them, they contribute to make the world better.
 charter is to help them to do so by pointing at the next code line to fix. And also to point to non.existing code lines like in The end of the document age.

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