Do you know this feeling? You’ve been trialling a software package or online service for years. You think it’s great, so do your online community friends and you finally decide to share the love with your work colleagues. As soon as you do so, they discover a usage issue that you’ve never even thought about. It completely ruins the experience for them and makes your beloved application look like a piece of crap.
This keeps happening to me with Google and a large part of the problem concerns email addresses and Google accounts.
Here’s one scenario. You invite a colleague to be a member of a Google service (e.g. a shared Google Doc or a Google Group). You invite them using their work address (e.g. XXXX@uq.edu.au). Unfortunately, you don’t know that they also have a Gmail address. When they try to access the service, they find that they don’t have permission.
The problem is that you can create an account at Google using any email address but if you then create a Gmail account, that address becomes the default for all Google services. This is clear enough to me, as someone who uses Gmail exclusively, but it causes no end of confusion for other users.
So what’s the solution?
- Tell all your colleagues to get Gmail addresses, use those for their Google accounts and ensure that you know them all
- Alternatively – Google could let you choose which email address to use as your account login for all services
I can see why using a Gmail address for Google services makes sense but can my colleagues, who have never tried out all this stuff? And how can they be convinced?
Here’s scenario number 2, which happened to me recently. Your colleague receives an invite to collaborate on a Google Document. For some reason, their mail client displays 2 URLs – something that you did not see when you tested the process using one of your alternative email addresses. The second of these is correct. Clicking on the first sends their browser into an endless loop. Result: they are not at all impressed and fail to understand your enthusiasm.
In my line of work I’m used to computational procedures that don’t quite work first time and require a little tweaking, understanding and consultation of help pages. Other people around me are not. They click, it doesn’t work, they give up. How much responsibility lies with: (1) the service provider, to create something usable, (2) me (or you), as an advocate persuading users to persevere and (3) the more casual user, to give software a chance when it doesn’t work first time?