The big Google background image failure

1 minute read

Last week, we launched the ability to set an image of users’ choosing as the background for the Google homepage. Today, we ran a special “doodle” that showcased this functionality by featuring a series of images as the background for our homepage. We had planned to run an explanation of the showcase alongside it—in the form of a link on our homepage. Due to a bug, the explanatory link did not appear for most users. As a result, many people thought we had permanently changed our homepage, so we decided to stop today’s series early. We appreciate your feedback and patience as we experiment and iterate.

“The art of a homepage”, Marissa Mayer, Google Blog

The post is dated July, 9. The update is dated June, 10. The uprising and the revert of the change lasted almost one day.

I think that there are two big issues:

  1. The process: they could have rolled it out as every other Google product before it, with sample A/B testingand incremental updates.
  2. The user comprehension: it seems they aren’t able to understand the users when it comes down to motivations, emotions, personal space, privacy.

It’s similar to the huge issue they had with Google Buzz, but at least there we should be able to argue that it was a malicious idea to get most of the people on it using the power of defaults and then tell the world it was “an error”.

I can’t imagine that there wasn’t a single person inside Google able to say “Hey, don’t force random images on the Google homepage, it will be a really bad intrusion in the user perception of us”.