Chrome Usability Makes It Unusable

27 November 2010

I love Google, and trust it more than most tech companies to be a good shepherd of all things tech.  I tried hard to adopt their browser Google Chrome, but I couldn’t stick with it.  Two major UI blunders made it nigh-unusable for me.

The first, and most unexpected, was their status bar truncation.  Even with a 1600×1200 window, Chrome will truncate URLs to a ridiculously short length, perhaps 30 or 40 characters, replacing most of the path with an elipses (“…”).  Unfortunately, the URL is of utmost importance when clicking a link, especially in this day of Search Engine over-Optimization (SEO), targeted ads, and rotating headlines.

The worst culprit is CNN, who runs several headlines for the same article, seeming to pick at random, in an attempt to either tie their article to multiple wordings of the same story, or to test viewer preference between headlines.  CNN will even link the same story multiple times on the same homepage with different headlines.  For example, today there is a headline that says “Black Friday’s black eye“.  What an indecipherable headline!  Hover the URL and you see the real story they’re pitching in the status bar, if you’re using any browser besides Google Chrome:

The actual story is that there were poorly run stores that let customers trample each other instead of handing out vouchers to a well-managed line of waiting customers on Black Friday.  Just like last year.  And the year before that.  I can pass on wasting any time on this article, but only because I stopped using Google Chrome.  I did hunt for an option to disable this pointless URL-shortening, but with two viable browsers (Safari and Firefox) I’m not exactly sold on hacking the Chrome source to fix such a blatant problem.

The second major issue I had was Chrome’s New Tab behavior.  When I open a new tab, about half the time is to select a bookmark, and the other half is to type in a url for address bar history auto-completion.  In Safari and Firefox, opening a new tab puts the cursor in the address bar of a blank page so you can immediately start typing.  In IE and Chrome, the new tab is made to visit the URL “about:blank”, which then loads (after a brief second of processing during which I would normally have my URL half-typed), and clears the cursor.  Making me move the mouse (or painful-to-use Dell laptop trackpad) up to the address bar, triple-click-delete or home-shift+end-delete, then finally start typing my URL.

I expect both of these behaviors exist because Chrome is primarily targeted at Google’s Android mobile platform, where keyboards and large-windows are non-existent.  It’s great that they target these platforms so well, but I’ll wait until they put some of these basic touches on the desktop browser before I put any more effort into adopting Chrome.  Don’t worry Google, I still love you anyway.

eBay: What Happens When You Ignore Your Own Website

18 June 2007

I stopped by eBay tonight looking for cellphones compatible with Verizon’s CDMA network. At least half of the results were junk. GSM phones incorrectly categorized as Verzion-compatible were common, making up a third or more of the search results. Another sixth of the results were data cables categorized as cellphones (likely on purpose to get more hits) and “free information with $10 shipping” scams.

The worst part is eBay’s “Report This Item” system. I made the mistake of thinking I could make a difference and help other people avoid seeing the same hordes of scams, lies, and miscategorized items. To report an item for any of these problems requires the following steps:

1) Open item
2) Click “Report Item” at the bottom
3) Select “Listing Policy Violation” (even if it seems intentionally mis-listed, the “Fraudulent Listings” category doesn’t cover these)
4) Select “Keyword Spamming” or “Other Listing Policy Violations”
5) Select “Innapropriate Use of Keywords”, or for “Other”, select “Miscategorized Items”
6) Click “Continue”
7) The next page tries to take you to the FAQs instead of actually reporting the item. Click the small “E-mail us” link if you actually want to report the item.
8) There’s a text box on the next page, but only item numbers can be entered. If you’re looking for somewhere to explain in any detail why you’re reporting the item, you’re out of luck.
9) Click send.

That was to report a single item. Depending on your search, there may be a third or more of the items miscategorized and irrelevant to your search. That’s a lot of items to go through this 9-step process for. After an hour digging through “super antennas”, “free literature”, and miscategorized GSM phones, I gave up. It’s not worth my time to do eBay’s categorization for them.

eBay is big enough to start charging small up-front fees to sellers. For instance, charge a one-time fee when a seller signs up for an account, say $5. If the seller starts posting fraudulent or miscategorized listings, cancel the account. Keep the $5. Make it unprofitable for sellers to scam or violate eBay policy. It takes the right rules to motivate your members to do the right thing.