What a bad interface can do

I lost all my Google Docs files unknowingly with a few simple steps

When Google Docs was released years back, I was one of the first people to jump on board. I liked the idea of having files that I could edit from any browser. A couple of days ago, I lost all those documents, years of personal and work data, after simply trying to organize my files.

Here’s how it happened: I use Google Drive on my local Mac. I decided to move some stuff out of the Google Drive folder which included .gdoc Google Docs files. As I’m doing this, I receive an Email from Google saying I was running out of storage space. So, I decide to empty the Trash on Google Drive through the online app. The next morning when I start my work day, none of the Google .gdoc files I open work. You can read my full account on this page I put up at googledrivesucks.com.

So basically, the way it works is even though .gdoc files are created on a local system, they are only links to a page on Google’s servers. If they are moved on the local system outside the Google Drive folder, syncing determines that they have been deleted from Google Drive. The user experience for this almost asks for an accident to happen.

I’m a web designer and developer. I understand how this works technically, yet it didn’t prevent me from making a few innocent mistakes. To me this defines Google’s approach to how they make a product: Focus on the technical, interface is secondary. This means what should be the ultimate goal: designing a product for a regular person to use, fails. The lack of oversight for something like this with no backup plan shows this. And the fact that they simply resort to blaming it on user error shows this.

Yes, I know I’m partially to blame, it does seem like a stupid mistake in hindsight. But who wouldn’t do the same thing without realizing it? Part of designing a good interface means taking the human aspect into account, or else who is the tool designed for? Google does so many good things, it’s a shame to see them overlook something as basic as how their users use their product. While I may still continue using Gmail (for now), I certainly wouldn’t trust the Google self-driving car.