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Google Plus: The good, the bad and the ugly

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Well, it’s been a month since Google Plus was released, making the social giants to shiver, as they’re watching their social empires being seriously threatened for the first time. We already showed you all the main features of Google Plus and how to take advantage of them, now we decided to make a complete research with the purpose of detecting the pros and contras regarding this new social network. We hope this analysis can help the Google team make the required adjustments in order to deliver an even better service that can help them place Plus on top of the social services.
Google Plus

The good things

It’s really easy to gather a list of positive things about Plus, after all it’s not free that they’re currently the biggest social sensation nowadays. The developing team at Google took note of all the errors that made Google Wave and Google Buzz turn out being some of the biggest failures on the history of the company, so that’s why they have been really careful on the design process of Plus to deliver a quality, fast and attractive product that can help Google make its official entrance into the social media world. Now let’s take a look at the main reasons why we consider that Google Plus is such an awesome product.

Clean design that makes the navigation easier

The first thing your eyes will notice when staring at Plus’ interface is its cleanliness and simplicity. One of the reasons behind the previous failures of the company could be pointed to the poor design due the complete focus over performance, so this time Google decided to consider design as a relevant aspect and that’s why they hired Andy Hertzfeld, an original member of the Macintosh era.

Walking hand in hand with Andy’s aid, Google has managed to create a really attractive interface. Plus’ design features a simple interface that reminds you of Facebook’s, which is a great start because after all, most people that will be joining Plus have spent many years on FB, so by having a similar interface, it will be easy for people to navigate throughout the page. But Google Plus is not just a copycat of Facebook’s design, what they did was capturing the most important elements and then give them a modern and cleaner look, so the user will feel like visiting something that is actually innovative and compelling.

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The interface is well designed, with all the elements easy to reach (with some exceptions) and thanks to the abundance of white, people will feel comfortable while visiting Plus. You can definitely sense the influence of Hertzfeld throughout the page, with tons of clean spaces, simple typefaces and very intuitive call to action buttons.

Pixel perfect elements

Along with the simple and sober design, Plus features many beautiful elements made pixel by pixel, which is commonly known as the pixel perfect technique. Some of these pixel elements that you will be interacting the most are right on your status bar, you can see how the designers managed to express camera, video, link and location in really simplistic icons.

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Subtle shadows

To continue discussing the design aspects that we like about Plus, we find an excellent shadows’ usage in several parts of the interface. These shadows are really subtle elements that in less than 2 pixels are able to give texture and add a certain volume to the different parts of Plus, just like you can see on the next example.

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Circles, a great way of organizing your friends

Before Google Plus, all the social networks had a similar method for managing your friends, you needed to create multiple lists and organize your contacts just as if you were using your email account, this method is still effective and helps you keep control over your contacts, but Google realized that there was a better way of doing this, a method that will help people manage their contacts with ease and in less time.

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This method is known as Circles (it seems like the guy played by Robert de Niro in Meet the Fockers gave Google the idea for this name hahaha), the biggest sensation among Plus users. What Circles does is keeping your contacts on several subgroups that you can customize at free will, then when you are about to publish something, you just need to choose the circle(s) that will be able to see the post, so you won’t ever have to worry about your Mom discovering your pictures with your girlfriend. You can have a person in more than just one circle and create as many circles you want, so the level of privacy that you can achieve is definitely the best thing inside Plus.

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Another nice detail regarding design is that when you roll over a contact, the circles where the person is currently included are highlighted, so you can easily know if every person has been properly classified and you have not included your ex-girlfriend in the Family Circle by accident.

Drag and drop events

One of the greatest things that put Google Plus above other social networks is its great interactivity . In the case of circles, you can drag and drop your contacts into the circles you choose, making not only easier but more amusing than using the old system. There might be a problem because most people is not used to drag and drop elements, though we consider that it eventually become one of the best features of Plus.

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As you can see on the previous pictures, you can select multiple contacts and drag them into a specific circle, which is definitely a major improvement in the way you manage your friends. It could be a problem at first because people is still acquainted with the old method but in the long term, we think that this drag and drop style will become the next trend.

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You can even select multiple pictures from your computer and drag them to the share bar in Plus, the site will automatically detect that you’re dragging an element into the search bar and will let you drop them and then share them with your circles.

HTML5 animations

Sure you can have a successful site without having animated elements on it, but when you’re competing against real titans the battle can be defined by small details like animated objects. Plus has included many subtle and natty animations that people will definitely love, the best example of this can be found on Circles, where every time you drag a new element into a circle, it expands through a nice elastic animation made with HTML5.

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Keep all your +1 links in one tab.

We can’t deny the big changes that Facebook’s like button brought to social media, it gave people the power to state their position regarding people’s posts and web articles without having to leave a comment. Likes became the easiest way of saying that you approve something and therefore people is now able to measure the value of a content based on the amount of links.

The problem came when you decide to save a link you like to check it later or show it to your friends when you arrive home, these ‘likes’ are not stored in a specific box, so you’re unable of retrieving them to check again that Wii review that you enjoyed a couple of weeks ago.

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Google took the same premise behind the Like button and developed +1, a social button that at first was seen by people as a simple imitation of Facebook’s Like, then we saw the real power of +1 and how will it affect things like SEO and ranking systems. This +1 button is another way of expressing your pleasantness towards a content that now also works inside the Plus network; until this point, the functionality of +1 looked very similar to Like, but thanks to Google Plus, people will now prefer to give a +1 rather than a Like to new publications, the reason of this is that when you visit your Plus profile, a new tab named +1’s is displayed, this tab stores all the +1 that you have made since day one, making possible for you to find all the things that you’ve liked in the past!.

View Profile As

Everyone knows that an effective way of facing a large brand is finding its weak points and leverage them, which is exactly what Google did for introducing Plus as a real competition for Facebook. One of Facebook’s main flaws is definitely privacy that even when it has been improved year after year, it still has many problems to be fixed.

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How many times have you uploaded a picture of your latest binge with your friends and despite of thinking that you adjusted the privacy so no one besides your folks was able to see it, it turns out that your Boss was a mutual friend with one of the guys that attended the party and therefore he ended watching your pictures?. This common problem in Facebook has been solved in several ways in Google Plus and one of these ways is through the ‘view profile as’ feature.

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Thanks to this feature, you can see how other people are watching your profile (the only way of doing this in Facebook is logging in using another account), you can see how every person outside your circles sees your profile or in case that you’re worried about what your Boss can see, then you can type his name and verify that he’s not seeing those compromising pictures of last night.

Accessible from the top bar while using any Gmail product

Google has the advantage of having an enormous set of online applications that people utilize everyday on their jobs or free time. You often need to check your email, share a document or check your RSS subscriptions, so having Plus next to these applications was an obvious idea for taking advantage of the wide array of apps that Google has to offer

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If you want to check your Plus account while checking Gmail or writing a document in Docs, you just need to click on your +username that appears on the top left corner of your browser.

Interactive Mini Bar

Having Plus on the top bar does not limit to a simple link that can take you back to your Plus account, you know that Google is always trying to take things one step ahead of the rest. If you check your Google top bar you’re going to realize on the right side of it a small section with your Plus name, a share bar and a couple more of items, so let’s see what this is about.

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You can think of this bar as a mini-Plus that goes along with the user while he’s utilizing other Google applications. If you make click over your Plus’ username or your icon, a small menu will display where you can go check your profile, manage your circles, change your account settings or logout using a different Plus account.

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The share bar allows you to share your thoughts, attach photos, videos or links and publish them in your stream without having to return to Plus, so now you will be able to stay in touch with your friends at anytime while using any of the Google apps.

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But definitely the best thing about this mini-Plus is that you can check all your notifications as long as you’re utilizing one of Google’s products. The notifications are classified in comments (red icon) and people that have added you to their circles (green icons).

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But you can do more than just checking your notifications, you can click on them and as you can see on the previous picture, add a comment, +1 the post and check all the other notifications, so this is definitely an amazing feature that will keep you connected to Plus while you check your Gmail and add notes into Calendar.

GTalk integration inside Plus

Google has taken advance of having what is probably the most popular mail service worldwide (Gmail) to boost the power of Plus. One of the main features of Gmail is GTalk, the small chat service employed by millions of people around the world, now GTalk has been integrated with Plus, so you won’t have to be at Gmail or install the desktop version, just go to your Plus stream and you will find GTalk on the left side of the page.

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Great feedback channel

One of the reasons why Buzz and Wave failed was that Google overlook people’s opinion as they considered that the two products were destined to be a major hit, now that we know what happened with those two, we know that Google is not willing to hit a third strike on its look for a piece of the cake in the social networking world.

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Although it could be a little more noticeable, the ‘send feedback’ button can be found through all the windows, you just need to click on it and you will be able to share with your thoughts regarding Plus with the Google team.

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Once the feedback window shows up, you can highlight the exact part of the page where the problem appeared, then you can also ‘hide’ any personal information that you want to preserve from being watched by the support team. This is definitely an excellent feedback service, the only thing missing for review is how fast the Google team replies to your query.

Use your Gmail account directly in Plus

If you have a contact who used his Gmail account for registering in Plus, then you can use your Gmail account to send him a message, so you’re not only sending him a private message à la Facebook but actually sending him an email to his Gmail account, another right guess from the Google team.

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Send private mentions

But what happens when a person does not have a Gmail account or for some mysterious reasons you’re not able of sending him an email via Plus?, well in that case what you can do is send a private mention, which is an evolution of Twitter’s mention system that has been so popular during the recent years.

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To mention a person, you need to type the @ symbol just like you do in Facebook and Twitter, or you can use the Plus style and type down the + symbol, either method works fine. Once you type down the first letter of the person you want to mention, an autofill box fill will display showing you the possible name(s) that you’re looking for.

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Now the message that you’re sending will only appear on your friend’s stream, so no one else will find out about this hidden conversation between you and him (her), this is definitely a nice idea of combining private messages with Twitter’s mention system.

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If you want to mention the person but you also want to share the publication with your circles, just add them to the share box, that way you will be mentioning the person but also sharing the post with the rest of your friends, just like a Twitter mention.

Filter stream results according to your circles

Some of the things in Facebook that bothers people the most is not being able of filtering their homepage, the only chance you got is removing a person for your stream, but then you will never see again that person’s updates, which is something very uncool. Google Plus has implemented a better system that allows you to filter the incoming posts from your contacts without having to remove them.

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When you land on Plus homepage, you will find all your circles on the left sidebar under the Stream section. All you need to do is switch between the different circles to see only the updates coming from the people within that circle, so you can easily check what your college friends have to say without missing the latest post from your favorite blog.

Share your location

Since GPS and Google Earth went mainstream, people began to understand how to take advantage of positioning systems to let others know their location, organize meetings and more, that’s why pages like Foursquare have become enormously popular. Now that more and more people are acquiring smartphones and mobile devices, sharing the current location has become something normal and that’s something that Google understood.

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Plus utilizes the Google Maps service to let you insert your current location in your profile in a precise level, you can add your current location as well as places where you’ve previously lived.

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And to make it even greater, Plus allows you to insert your location at the moment of sharing a post, you just have to click on the red balloon icon and Google will automatically direct your position. Although this is a really cool service, it’s important to be careful of the people you share your location with, so don’t forget to use your circles wisely.

Interactive photo albums

Implementing a photo album inside a social network is a simple and necessary process, not in vain there are thousands of pictures being uploaded every minute to Facebook, Twitpic, Flickr and more. Until this point, all pages have offered simple photo albums where you can visualize, tag and add comments to pictures, but there was nothing beyond that until now.

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When you browse though the different photo albums in Plus, the system displays a nice animation that shows you some of the pictures inside the album, a nice idea for knowing more about what’s inside an album without having to open it.

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And once you are inside the album, every time you roll over a picture, it pops up instead of using the classic highlight effect, which is definitely another nice touch that Plus has included.

Photo viewer

Another great feature of Plus is its awesome photo viewer. You can explore through the different pictures, add comments, tag people and even check the properties of a picture; the viewer is not a major revolution in front of other sites but it’s definitely faster and easier to use.

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The interface is clean and organized, it opens in fullscreen (unlike Facebook) to prevent accidental exits by clicking outside the window. This viewer therefore can be considered as an updated version of FB’s photo viewer.

Upload pictures directly from your phone

There’s no doubt that one of the major battle fields where social networks will have to face each other on the next years is mobile devices, having a good desktop version it’s no longer enough as there are more and more people accessing from their smartphones every day. One of the problems that Facebook has not been able to figure out is the upload system via mobile devices, this because the process takes a lot of time and you cannot store them with ease.

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The Plus application includes a neat function named ‘Instant Uploads’, this function lets you upload your photos and have them immediately online in a private album that only you can edit, so the only thing you need to do is upload the photos and then adjust the privacy settings from your computer.

Another advantage is that unlike iCloud, Plus has no limit on the number of pictures that you can store, so you can upload thousands and thousands of photos and as along as Google is still alive, you won’t have to worry about your pictures being lost in cyberspace.

You can edit photos directly on Plus

But the photo viewer is not only appealing and functional but it also has been enhanced with a killer feature that makes the ultimate photo viewer. Many people (specially girls) like to add effects and filters to their pictures before uploading them, and the only way of doing this is passing the pictures through photo editors such as Picnic. This process was kind of cumbersome but it was the only way of doing it until now, because fortunately, Plus has included some nice photo effects directly on the viewer.

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Of course you can’t expect a lite Photoshop or something like that, however you can find 6 different effects that cover all the main processes that people like to apply to their pictures. These effects include Cross Process (the popular vintage look), Black and White, Orton (similar to Photoshop’s Diffuse Glow) and more.

Automatically migrate your photos from Blogger

When Google releases a new product, it doesn’t mean that older versions or products will be discontinued but on the opposite, they always try to integrate the different Google products to create a single Google network. If you’re one of the thousands of people with a Blogger page, Plus can automatically import all your Blogger pictures to your Plus profile, saving you a lot of time while migrating all the pictures manually.

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Check additional properties of a picture

As we said before, the photo viewer does not only look good but also includes some nice features that make it the best visualizer around, giving you the chance of adding comments, tag people and even adding cool effects!. In case that you’re a photographer or have certain affinity with the field, then this next feature will astonish you.

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When you’re previewing a picture on Plus’ photo viewer, you can display the Actions menu to do different things, including reporting the photo, delete it or rotate it, though the nicest option you have is checking the photo properties, just click on ‘Photo Details’ and after a nice animation flips the photo, all the main properties regarding the picture will show up.

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Most modern cameras have the capacity of storing the main information of a photo, even if it is modified or edited. This information can be visualized just like you can on Flickr, it gives you the photographer’s name, date of take, camera model and even the histogram!.

One-click profile editing

Probably we’re getting a little too harsh with Facebook (you can scroll down to read some of the bad aspects of Plus) but it’s just the best site to compare Plus with. When you want to edit your profile in FB, it takes you to a new window where you edit all your information through multiple options, this system works well but it was kind of slow and tiresome.

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Editing your Plus profile is much easier and user-friendly and you won’t even have to open a new window. The one-click editing lets you click on the part of the profile you want to edit and then save the changes, this system is definitely more effective than FB’s and represents a new paradigm on how the user will interact with social websites on the feature.

YouTube integration with hangouts

Hangouts is another fascinating feature that Plus has included for all his users. Hangouts allows you to host / attend videoconferences with up to 10 peoples at the same time, you can host a hangout anytime you want and share it with the rest of the world, so they can stop by and say hello whenever they want. This service is already been implemented by some companies as a way to provide customer service to their clients at all time.

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But hangouts is more than just a conference room, you can also activate the regular chat window for those who don’t have a microphone or prefer to remain anonymous. But definitely the coolest thing is that you can watch YouTube videos with all the hangout guests at the same time, which is something that had not been done before.

Mute a person inside your hangout

When you’re hosting a hangout and someone becomes really annoying (starts yelling, cursing or something like that), you can simply mute that user to restore the harmony among the rest of the brotherhood, though the user can restore the volume after a while.

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Easily share YouTube videos

Although sharing a YouTube video in Twitter or Facebook is simple (just paste the link in your wall or click on the share button while visiting YouTube), Google Plus has made this process even easier and functional, they’ve definitely took advantage of being the YouTube owners after all.

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If you want to share the video from your stream, just click on the ‘Upload Video’ button and then select YouTube, of course you can also paste the link directly but we want to show you what happens after you click on that option.

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What happens when you select the ‘YouTube’ option is that a new window opens, which is practically a mini YouTube directly on Plus. You can search for a video, enter an URL or select from your uploaded videos in case that you have a YouTube account, you can also preview the videos directly on Plus, so it’s no longer necessary to open YouTube in order to find that hip hop video you saw the other day.

Fullscreen videos

Now you don’t have to open the original link of a shared video in case that you want to see it in fullscreen, Google Plus opens any shared video in a large window that can be expanded to full screen, while preserving all the quality of the video and just like it happens with pictures, you can leave a comment and see additional properties when available.

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Forbid comments on your posts

When you post something in Facebook, there’s no way to prevent people from leaving comments on it, so the only way to fix this is deleting each comment manually until people gets bored of trying to leave their thoughts on that Friday’s gig video.

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With Plus this problem has been fixed, you just need to click on the upper right button to display the post options and choose ‘Disable comments’ to make your post immune against undesired comments.

Prevent people from sharing your posts

The second thing that people don’t like about Facebook (Twitter solved this problem by creating private profiles) is that anyone can share their posts to their friends, making possible that your friends share your wedding’s video and somehow it arrives to your fiancé’s wall, that’s just not right.

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Plus also took care of this by inserting next to ‘Disable comments’ another useful option dubbed ‘Disable reshare’; this option keeps your posts in your stream only, so you won’t have to worry about your drunk video becomes viral because someone decided to spread the word.

Edit your posts without having to republish

A while ago, Facebook incorporated a new feature that helps people edit comments without having to delete them, this feature apparently works during a certain span because when we’ve tried to edit old comments, FB simply eliminates them. As we’ve said, this feature only covers comments, whilst posts are un-editable once you publish them.

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Google Plus on the other hand, understands that you may want to change a publication even after weeks of being published, so that’s why they’ve included an ‘Edit this post’ option that lets you edit a post, insert links and even check the current privacy settings.

Animated profile pictures

If you had the chance of seeing the new version of Facebook a few months ago, then you know that the new FB interface was supposedly going to have interactive profile pictures and sliding photos, unfortunately this never happened and now Google Plus has taken advantage of it by placing animated profile pictures inside Plus.

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This is definitely one of the most awesome features in Plus and another negative point for Facebook. Now people can see all your profile pictures without having to explore the entire profile album. This nice animation could be implemented on later versions of Plus to produce an even greater interface.

Contras / things to improve

But even Google has issues, specially when it comes to new social products. Google Plus is definitely the best chance that Google has to finally position a decent social product, its awesome features and functionality have definitely amazed more than one, however, the product is still in a development phase and that’s why there are many issues to correct.

Some of these issues are related with design, which is something that can be easily improved, while others have to do with more delicate things such as privacy. Now we’re going to review the main problems that we’ve found after using Plus for over a week.

No Share/Tweet link

Certainly Sparks is one of the most interesting features in Plus, it lets you organize something similar to a RSS (though you follow topics instead of websites) and hence you can check all the latest news from the themes that you’re interested about. When you find an interesting article on the internet, you can instantly share it on Facebook or Twitter through the Share/Tweet buttons, but what happens with Plus?.

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As you can see on the picture, sharing a post found via Sparks is really simple, just click on the Share button, adjust the privacy settings and you’re done. But what happens when you find something outside of Sparks and you want to share it?, the only option in that case is give the article a +1 to save it in your +1’s tab and then share it, so one of the things to improve is implement a tweet-like button that allows you to share something directly in your Plus stream.

Mutual Sparks

Many social websites (specially dating pages and similar) have developed a browsing system that allows you to meet new people based on common interests and affinities, this system has been implemented in Twitter through the ‘Who to follow’ tab, which suggest you several people based on your interest and also lets you check specific topics and then find new people to follow, so far this method has produced excellent results on the Twitter community, which is one of the reason why more people is joining this website every day.

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In Google Plus, you can only find people through their email, so if they’re not connected to you via Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail, it can be really difficult to find them as the only chance you got is typing down their name on the search bar. Our suggestion to Google is implement a following system that compares mutual Sparks and then provides a list of possible matches to be added in your circles.

Sparks button not so easy to find

Although the general design of Plus is indeed excellent, there are a couple of things that should be assessed for the next version of this promising social product. As we said before, Sparks is one of the nicest features in Plus because it keeps you informed of the latest news while enjoying your Plus experience.

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But how are you supposed to enjoy Sparks if you can’t even know where to find them?. As you can notice on the previous picture, the Sparks button is probably one of the latest things you notice because it has been placed between the Stream and Chat windows, making it look as if it was part of one of them. The solution might be highlighting Sparks or utilize a divisor line like the ones you can see on the right sidebar.

‘More Actions’ button is unnecessary

Even when a good practice in web design is trying to reduce the amount of categories displayed on a menu by merging them into main sections, this practice should not be overused. When you have at least 3 or 4 elements that can be merged into a single menu, then you can proceed and reduce the amount of items, but when you only have one or two items, merging them is kind of unnecessary.

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When you’re at the Circles tab, one of the options you find is ‘More actions’, this title makes you think that there’s a lot of things to do with your contact, but the truth is that it only displays the ‘Select All’ option and ‘Block’ in case that you have chosen a contact, so in this case we consider that it was unnecessary merging these two options inside a menu.

Interconnecting Circles

Circles are definitely a great way of organizing your contacts while enjoying a compelling animation (our favorite one occurs when you eliminate a circle), you can easily manage your privacy settings and keep your contacts in order, however, this idea could be taken to a higher level and become something really innovative.

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A great idea might be developing an animated flowchart that showcases the relation between your different contacts (who knows who and who doesn’t), this could be an awesome idea to help you build a community or identify market targets, though there might be some privacy settings that should be parsed before developing these flowcharts.

Implement a hashtag-like system

Once you dominate Twitter, you know that it can become a real-time browser thanks to hashtags. These ‘special’ words are utilized to make a tweet to show up on the results page when a person looks for it. Of course there’s a lot of people that overuse them but still, hashtags are some of the best things inside Twitter to help you find new and quality contents.

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Because Google Plus is growing rapidly, it may be a nice idea to implement a hashtag-like system that along with Sparks aids people browse their interests and meet new people in the process. Maybe the best way of doing this will be integrating the people search bar with the Sparks search section.

Security policies

One of the aspects where Facebook has always been more closer to its users is security and privacy. Facebook understands that people not always like to share their real names and often prefer to work using their company’s name or some fictitious character that they love, that’s why Facebook (and Twitter) don’t seem to have a problem with this and given the case that a person is using a fake profile to share malicious data, then the person is invited to quit those suspicious activities and if the person ignores the recommendation, then the company bans his account.

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Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Plus (and Google in general) has some really strict privacy and security policies that sometimes go beyond all reason. We were victims of this a couple of weeks ago when we created our Google Plus account using our company’s name, we got banned after a couple of days just for using that name instead of a person’s last and first name.

Many people have been victim of these irrational privacy policies (even Star Trek’s William Shatner got expelled from the network) and this could end up giving back some lost terrain to other social networks. Plus features a pretty cool section inside the ‘About’ tab known as nicknames where you can add your company’s name and artistic pseudonym without getting banned, the problem is that the option is overlooked by many people at the moment of filling their profiles. Google should soften a little bit these policies or figure out a way in which people can choose several names to display according to the person that’s visiting his profile.

Drag events should be easier to discover

We have already talked about the amazing drag and drop events that Plus has incorporated throughout its site, specially on the Circles section. These events were specially made for mobile devices when dragging elements is one of the most common things to do, however, there seems to be a problem that Google did not consider at the time of making these drag and drop animations.

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Due the fact that we have many web designers in our company, it was easy to discover all the fascinating animations and drag & drop events included in Plus, but for a regular user, this might seem a little tricky. When a person wants to remove a contact from a circle, he would expect to find an X symbol next to the contact, but because will not find that button, the next solution will be making right click, which will take him to the picture you see above, from that window he will be able to remove a contact and save the changes, but the easiest way of removing a contact did not cross his mind during the process, so why did this happen?

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The reason is that unless you are an avid mobile user, people is not acquainted to drag and drop events for interacting in a website, so there should be some sort of message to indicate to the user that he can simply drag the contact outside the circle, this can be achieved by simply placing a tooltip that shows up when the user passes the cursor over the contact, that way he will know what to do.

Circles + GTalk

Circles are great to organize contacts and handle your privacy, while GTalk helps you stay connected with your business partners and be available at all time. If we take these two features and blend them, then Google will obtain an even more powerful chat service that boosts GTalk with the power  and awesomeness of Circles.

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What you currently see on Plus’ sidebar is your Circles on top of the Stream section and your GTalk below, it would be an awesome improvement if you can classify your GTalk contacts in Circles, so you can see only the ones you need to talk about and even remain hidden for the rest, then it could be even greater if you add some hangout qualities to it.

Collapsing threads

This is something that must definitely be checked asap. Yesterday, we were checking one of the latest posts from Mashable and we noticed that there were plenty of comments on it, so we decided to expand the thread to see what people were saying about that publication, then once we read the comments, we wanted to collapse the thread back but surprisingly there was no way of doing this.

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This is how the post looked before we expand the 48 older comments inside the thread, nothing weird so far, but now let’s see what happened once we decided to expand these comments.

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Click to enlarge

Then we expanded the thread and the post practically covered almost the whole site due the large amount of comments, which was not a problem as we actually wanted to read the comments, the problem showed up when we finished reading and we decided to collapse the thread, there was no way of doing it!, we tried reloading the page, switching tabs and nothing, the thread remained expanded, so we had no other choice but shutting down the browser.

Cannot browse contacts from multiple Gmail accounts

When you want to add new contacts to your Circles, Google gives you a list with people that have added you and another one where you can Find and Invite, this last section displays all your current Gmail contacts and also lets you browse inside your Yahoo and Hotmail accounts.

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The problem is that while you can explore your Yahoo and Hotmail accounts, there’s no way of migrating multiple Gmail accounts with ease, so the only solution you have is exporting your contacts from all your Gmail accounts and then import them through the ‘Upload address book’. Plus should definitely include the chance of browsing multiple Gmail accounts because many people have more than one account, usually created for managing personal contacts in one account and professionals on the other.

Fan and business pages

We cannot criticize the fact that Google has not released these services yet because after all, the main goal is to persuade a wide sector of the population to join Plus, however, it’s important to remember Google about this and share some great tools that might be incorporated once that fan and business pages are released.

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Click to enlarge

The previous image shows how business and fan pages would probably look once they’re published, you can notice that Circles for companies will include fans, employees and brand managers, which is something really great for building a community’s identity. Google has announced that some of the possible services that will be included  on fan/business pages are Google Meetings (hangouts for companies), Google Screencast (nice tool that allows you to share your computer’s screen with others), Google Whiteboard (A Notepad-like application that appears while attending a meeting to help people take notes throughout the conference). Now we’ll have to way until these pages are released to see what they’re all about.

Hiding people inside Circles’ suggestions

This problem can be probably solved with ease but yet we decided to mention it in case that someone has not noticed it yet.  As you can see on the next image, there’s a tiny dashed line between the current circles and the suggestions, this line helps Plus organize its contents while conserving simplicity at its best.

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But this element does more than just providing a certain balance between Circles and suggestions, you can hold click over the line and drag it to reduce the amount of contacts that are displayed on the suggestions section. The problem is that this line does not always follow the dragging actions (we tried this on different browsers and not even Chrome does it right) and therefore most people don’t like it.

Does not suggest the best size for your profile picture

When you upload a new profile picture, it seems OK from the upload window, but once you save the changes, the image suffers a serious decrement in terms of quality, resulting in pixellated, low quality pictures. This happens because Plus automatically resizes the picture to an unspecified value.

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As you can see, the profile picture looks perfect in the upload window, you can rotate it or crop it and then save the changes. At this point you should receive a hint on which one is the best format, the best size and measures to avoid pixellation effects from showing up.

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It seems like Plus resizes all profile pictures to make them fix inside a specific canvas, that’s why the profile picture that looked so neat on the upload window now seems pixelated and unpleasant. We consider that Plus should specify a determined size for profile pictures in order to prevent things like these from happening.

The Bragging Rights

We know that when a new social product is launched, it tries to implement new features to help them stand aside from similar websites. On the case of Google Plus, they have incorporated awesome things such as Google Maps for letting know your current location and Nicknames to help people find you with ease, but what about the ‘Bragging rights’?.

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We’ve read many people’s opinions saying that the bragging rights are awesome because now they can share with the world all their accomplishments and stuff, but if there’s already an Occupation section plus Employment and Introduction, you can easily insert your bragging rights within one of them, so we think that though the idea was kind of cool, it does not have a real application whatsoever.

Remember chosen Circles

We include this item because we were personally affected by it. When you make a post and you want to share it with certain people, you just need to choose the proper circles and individually insert the contacts that are currently outside those circles but you would like to share the post with them.

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Google thought that remembering the latest circles used by a person in a post was a nice feature, however, it turns out to be a problem because sometimes you might forget to adjust this and end up sharing the content with someone you didn’t want to. So we consider that Plus should not insert the latest Circles automatically but instead collocate an option dubbed ‘use my latest circles’ or something like that.

Confirmation dialog

When you want to remove a contact from your circles, there is no X symbol to click on, which is something we talked about previously, while in the contacts suggestions, this X symbol does show up. The problem we saw is that though it’s useful to have the X button to remove a contact with ease, people might accidentally click on it and hide the contact by accident.

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What happens is that when you make click on the X button, the selected contact is automatically removed from the list, even if you did not have the intention of doing that, so it’s definitely necessary to insert a confirmation dialog that shows up before the contact gets actually removed.

Misunderstanding the mail icon

In general terms, Plus’ design is definitely amazing thanks to its simplicity and navigability, you can easily find the different options and organize your stream, though we have detected a small problem that in the end could be leveraged for Plus’ benefit.

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This problem is regarding the small mail icons that appear next to the contacts that are not currently in Google Plus. This icon represents that the person is not in Plus and you can only share your updates with him via email, the problem is that people may think that clicking on the icon will automatically take them to Gmail, so what Google could do is allow people to send an email to that person by simply clicking on that mail icon.

Update your status from the profile

Although you can update your status at any time using the top bar, it should be an status bar on top of your profile section, so you can easily update your status while checking your previous updates, though this is not indispensable and the only reason of this is that people is already used to update their status right from their Facebook profile page.

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Click to enlarge

Although inserting the stream bar on the place we’re pointing might result in a saturated profile, this should be considered for an initial phase while people gets acquainted with the whole Plus functionality and starts letting go the old Facebook habits.

Animated pictures in Firefox and IE

On the first section of this article we talked about the awesome animated profile pictures, a slick idea that will allow people to check all your profile pictures without having to check the profile album itself. However, when we decided to check how these animations were displayed on other browsers we were surprised when we saw that Firefox 5 and IE7 cannot display them.

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According to our developing experts, the reason of this problem might be explained by the fact that Google developed Plus considering Firefox 4 capacities, so when Firefox 5 was released, there was no support for it, which may be the same problem regarding IE. We hope that the Google crew will fix this issue soon as there are many Firefox users (including us) out there.

Sort post based on date

It seems like Plus has not only harnessed the best aspects of Twitter and Facebook but has also paid attention to other important sites such as Digg and Reddit, which might be good in terms of finding relevant information and using Google Plus as a news feed, but this could also generate some problems such as the one we found whilst we were trying to visualize our oldest publications.

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Click to enlarge

Google Plus organizes the incoming posts based on popularity and relevance, which means that an article released a week ago might appear on top of an article that was published an hour ago. This method works great in case that you want to find quality content only, but if you want to know the latest updates from your friends, whether if they’re important or not, Plus becomes a problem because it does not let you sort posts according to the publishing date.

Threaded comments

Currently there’s no problem if you want leave a comment in a post, just type down the comment and send it, but in case that you want to respond a comment left by another person, Plus does not leave you that choice, giving you the opportunity of simply +1 the comment.

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As you can see on the previous picture, you can’t leave a comment as a response to another, so people might not realize that you’re actually replying to their message. This system should be improved based on other social networks such as Digg or Reddit, that way you can easily browse throughout different threads and see how things are going inside a post.

+1’s inside Google Plus

One of the advantages that the +1 button has in front of FB’s Like is that all the links that you have voted using the +1 button get stored inside your Plus account, you just need to check the +1’s tab and you get instant access to all your +1′s links.

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Click to enlarge

But what about the posts and comments inside Plus that you +1?. These +1 votes are not stored inside the +1’s tab and apparently they cannot be retrieved from a single place, so maybe Plus needs to incorporate a history tab where all the movements you make inside Plus are stored, including comments, shares and of course +1 votes.

Spam mentions inside Plus

This final aspect is probably the major security breach inside Google Plus. While we were testing the site prior we start writing this article, we saw that you can mention a person using the @ o + symbols, which until that point seemed normal, we mentioned some friends and they mentioned us back just to see how mentions work inside Plus, but then we came up with the idea of asking a friend to remove us from all his circles and we did the same, then we checked if it was still possible to send a mention to that person despite of not being connected at all inside Plus.

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After removing this contact from all our circles, we prepared this message that was specifically directed to him, who had also removed us from his circles by this point.

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Click to enlarge

And even after having eliminated us, our friend received the notification of the mention we made, would you imagine a major personality being bombarded by hundreds of these spammy mentions?, we browsed through all the configuration options and we did not find a way of preventing these mentions from reaching our Stream, so this is definitely a major issue that Google needs to resolve asap.

Final thoughts

So that’s all for this roundup, we have evaluated all the good and bad aspects of Plus, we know that the product is still on a primal phase and there are many things yet to be improved, however we consider that the site is definitely the best chance that Google has had so far to finally find his way inside the social media world, hopefully the arrival of Plus can motivate Twitter and Facebook to deliver even better products that at the end of the day will be helpful for all of us the users.

What are your thoughts about Plus?, would you be willing to give at try and even say goodbye to your old Facebook account?, the debate is open and you can join it by checking our comments section. Don’t forget that if you haven’t received a Plus invitation yet, you can leave us a comment in our Free Google Invitations article and we’ll be more than glad of sending you one.

Note: Don’t forget to follow us via our Google Plus profile , RSS channel, Facebook page and Twitter so you can find useful resources for web professionals. If you don’t have a Google+ profile yet, please ask for an invitation in the comments section :).


73 Responses to “Google Plus: The good, the bad and the ugly”

  1. ya the Google Plus design is amazing may be they are just testing… :D

  2. it is the good product you can enjoy it

  3. Great article.

    I keep reading about Google+. This is a great guide to explain it in depth (the screen shots were particularly informative).

    Simon
    Colchester, UK

    • Thank you Simon, hopefully Plus will continue to evolve until it becomes a truly powerful sharing network.

  4. Great read. I think I am going to share it G+. :)

    • Hey that’s awesome, thanks Bon and don’t forget to check all our updates in our Plus channel…

  5. Great review thanks for the post. keep up to good works.

  6. I did not have a chance to read all of this, as I am about to head to work, but you are absolutely wrong on the view profile as section of this article. You say the only way Facebook allows for that is to log in to another account. I say you are completely wrong. You can view how others see your profile through your privacy settings. Get facts straight before posting articles, it is common knowledge.

    • Hi Josh, as you can see in Robert’s comment, he said the same thing. We are not too much into Facebook and hence we have much knowledge about the site, after all this is a clear evidence of how much we dig Plus. Anyhow you’re right about talking without knowing all the facts.

  7. Robert
    August 18th

    You write …. “Thanks to this feature, you can see how other people are watching your profile (the only way of doing this in Facebook is logging in using another account)”.  

    BUT Facebook actually DOES have this feature in Choose your privacy settings/Customise settings. 

    The fact that you were not aware just highlights how much better Google+ has implemented it.

    • Hey Robert, thanks for the insights. We’ve never been truly Facebook lovers, so that’s probably why we did not realize that. Definitely Google Plus has made a much greater work in terms of interface.

  8. eddie
    August 18th

    They actually just made some big changes to the comments section of posts. They scroll live and you can expand/collapse them really easily. It handles it really really well now.

    • Oh that’s awesome Eddie!, at the time of writing this article that feature had not been applied yet…

  9. Kevin
    August 18th

    There is no need for a confirmation dialog when clicking on the x symbol because Google provides a undo function after every action. At the top of the page it says you just removed 18 people from circle X do you wish to undo? This is the confirmation dialogue, it’s already included but it removes the extra step for the user. The confirmation is only useful if you’ve made a mistake, and assuming the user is making a mistake every time they make an action is rude and annoying to the end user. Assume that what they’ve done is intentional and let them undo it if it wasn’t. Google has this right, and there’s no need for the confirmation.

    • Mmm you’re probably right Kevin, we know that the confirmation dialog shows up before you finish an action, however we consider that many average user may not know this and therefore it can be a little troublesome.

  10. Very nice article!
    Let’s see in the future if Google+ can become a real Facebook competitor…

  11. Google plus would take social networking to a new level and has succeeded in doing so till now. There are many features that we wish that they are available in G+ but it would take time and I am sure G+ is going to have the best features that a social networking site should have. By the way, I have bookmarked this blog as I liked it a lot and I want to study it in more detail for future references. Thanks.

  12. Chintan Lakhani
    August 19th

    You haven’t researched enough, like blocking connections (not just removing them), etc.

    While reading your contras, I so so so wanted to simply send this page to Mr. Page, but I won’t do that yet. I don’t want to appear naive… 

  13. Wow, what a great analysis about Google+! I’m impressed.Even if there are some weaknesses, it seems this is the best existing social network so far.
    Unfortunately I haven’t got an invitation yet and would be happy about one!
    Thank you in advance!

  14. GooglePlus
    August 23rd

    You can still get free invites at http://www.free-google-plus.com It’s the only site I know that works since Google stopped allowing the public.

  15. Ho fine one

  16. Al Magnuson
    August 29th

    The information included is excellent. I am new to Google + and hope to start using it soon. As I read the commentary I became aware of some errors in the text. At first they seemed to be typos but as I noticed more errors it became apparent that the person who wrote the text, although competent in English, was not a native speaker of English. The errors are grammatical and problems with usage. It was also apparent that whoever proofread the text, if it was proofread by another reader, did not correct the errors. The errors do not interfere with understanding the text but they are a distraction. I apologize for being picky in this respect but the errors cause me to question the professional aspect of this site. Sorry

    Very truly yours,
    Al Magnuson

  17. Really great article and an unexpectantly through look. I think theyve done really well with + but the new gmail look leaves a lot to be desired. The contrast levels are just  not enough to make out anything.

  18. Website Design Bangalore
    December 27th

    I really enjoyed this site. This is such a Great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. It gives in depth information. Thanks for this valuable information.

    • You’re welcome, always glad to see that our pieces are of great use to visitors’ projects. Best regards…………..

  19. The blog is absolutely fantastic. Lots of great information and inspiration, both of which we all need. Thanks.

  20. Thanks for your helpful article!

  21. Great blog and info on google plus merits and demerits

    • Designer
      August 6th

      Indeed, hope you have enjoyed reading

  22. At last, someone comes up with the “right” awsner!

  23. You’re a real deep thinker. Thanks for sahring.

  24. I think you are right, Google plus will be hurting to the Facebook. Google came out this to compete with facebook and social business. google have given bonus to their employee based on social engagement.

  25. That’s right! We as web designers will just have to get the best use of all of them. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Best regards!

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