Okay, the post title is a little bit harsh, but hear me out. It will never be the social network it wants to be unless it redesigns the user interface. I love Google products maybe twice as much as the next guy and I have tried very hard, over and over again, to force myself to use Google+ and to like it, but it's just not happening. Since I'm all about user experience, Google+ design doesn't really do it for me. Even though many have said that Google+ has become a photographer's playground, I'd like beg to differ.
Take, for example, a few pictures that were posted by time-lapse photographer Joe Capra (some of you might know him as "Scientifantastic"). Open the link, and then click on an image. Now let's see how long it takes for you to +1 the picture.
It took me nearly 4-5 seconds, and I really had to hunt down the +1 button so I could press it. Now in the grand scheme of things 4-5 seconds is nothing, but when you put that into the world of the internet it is an eternity. The button is placed in such an awkward position where no one's eyes have been trained to go, and it's pretty much a no-mouse land. It's counter intuitive.
While I very much appreciate the dark background, which makes the image "pop," I really don't feel like interacting with the Google+ ecosystem. Why? Because my mouse never goes into the footer. I suspect that yours never goes there either. So while Google tries to make your photos look good, it provides no efficient way of interacting with your work or the work of others. When you look at it from that perspective, as a social network Google+ is not promoting the "social" aspect. In fact, it's downplaying it. Twitter and Facebook succeed because of the ease of interactivity. Google+ makes it hard.
So what you end up with is the ghost town that is Google+.
Assuming that you're not a hardcore Google+ user, I bet it took you a few seconds to get out of that "lightbox" mode too. You'll have to click way on top of the web page to get out of it. Again, as an Internet user, I'm very lazy so I really don't want to travel much with my mouse. Why can't they make it like Facebook (or any other really well thought out site honestly) where you get out simply by clicking anywhere outside of the picture and the comment section.
Now that we are on the subject, let's take a look at how Facebook designs their flow: you read the photo description, you have to option to like it right away, right underneath it. You can also drop a comment or reshare the post without too much mouse movement. You see? BAM BAM BAM, interaction domination. That is the key to success in social networking. None of us love Facebook anymore but it continues to be used because it works so well (though it's not helping itself by recently removing the ability to watch videos within Facebook- this is a bad decision on their part).
The same design philosophy can also be spotted out on 500px website as well. Within a few hundred pixels, you can achieve all three tasks easily. That's a very good way of encouraging users to interact, and encouraging interaction promotes social growth which promotes user activity. You can't have a successful social-based site unless you get the design right. This is something I can't believe Google doesn't get right.
While we're on the topic of designing and user experience, have you ever noticed why Twitter website looks somewhat pleasing to the eyes? It's because they follow the Golden Ratio rule...
...whereas Google, whose motto has always been about simplicity, is now trying to design for eye-candy. Google is a company that is operated by an army of top-notch engineers and I give them much props for making all the products that I use daily, but I think they really should focus on functionality rather than beauty. Unless, of course, they hire someone who knows a thing or two about user experience, as opposed to monkey coding.
So, tell me, how much/often do you use Google+, and are you happy with their design? I love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.