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May 4, 2011 / X_Y

Usability Issues:Here! There! They’re Everywhere!

If you think big companies make high quality stuff, you’re obviously on the wrong track. Like today, I get totally pissed off by Google.

Today, just like usual, I start searching something in google. And Phff! Everything goes into Swedish. This is not too weird, as I’m in Sweden. The weird thing is, I’ve changed the interface language to English long ago!… OK, this is not too big a problem, with my poor amount of Swedish and visual memory (I’m almost a life-time google user), I started bumping around and try to make it back to English. Before I figured it out why, everything is English again. Oh, no, the “account settings” is still Swedish, and I definitely have no idea how to make it back, not even through googling.

Through all these bumping around process, I get some conclusions about google’s language setting:

  • The interface language, as well as the searching language is defined by location of your IP address. If you set it to your convenience, normally it will remember in your computer. However, if you want to change it you need to use “search settings” hidden in a funny menu. If you can’t remember its position very well, don’t speak English and is staring at its interface strangely stuffed with some totally foreign language, then wish you good luck!
  • Searching engine of the browser, if you set it to “”, it will be defined by your location. What’s interesting, this setting seems to be different from the google page you go to through the URL bar. So they can have two different sets of language settings, how amazing!
  • If you’re a google account user, the “account settings” has a third language policy. Within the amount of time I was researching on it, I couldn’t find any solution to change it. So I’m not sure if it is defined by your location or the “country” field you filled in.

Here you change your "Interface language" settings!

On the google support group I saw many people with similar problems. Most of them are people abroad, who have to face the foreign-language-google in an internet cafe, airport or hotel and don’t have much clue about what to do. Some of them even have to use proxies from their home country, just to use google. They get the conclusion that, google just don’t care because we’re such a small user group (Location based ads will probably not work on us).

From the perspective of interaction design, I just want to say, why not put an icon of language settings on your front page? It’s the only setting none-account users have to deal with, and how much does it cost to make this tiny change? If you have more time, please combine the three different language settings into one, and have it defined by user in his/her google account, instead of your location-detecting-technologies. Right now having a google account means you have a free extra set of language settings, you don’t need to be so generous to your register users, really.

This also reminds me of the “Region and Language Settings” in Microsoft Windows 7. Before I start installing it asked me about my location and language, I honestly  put in English as my language, and Sweden as my location. This honesty appeared to be a wrong choice later, as all the installing wizards of third party providers started presenting Swedish to me. Then I have to restart my computer several times and experiment on the combination of language and region to see what’s the root cause of the problem. Why do you need to make it so complicated? You can just remove the “location” so people don’t have to tell lies, and put in one “first language” field to control all the installation wizards, MSN homepages, stuff like that.

Which one controls the language setting of installation wizards?

I’m so amazed that big companies are ignoring such kinds of fatal usability issues. Further more, if these issues have been there for many years already, I have to wonder, do they really care about the users?

PS. suddenly the language of google “Account Settings” goes to English again! Thanks to all the little fairies working anonymously behind the scene!


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