A couple of days ago, I posted a review of the new iGoogle, which I mostly liked except for a few bugs, and I got a lot of response. (A lot of response for this humble blog, anyway.) All of the commenters completely disagreed with me.
But I noticed something else in common with all the comments: frustration. I don’t think that frustration stems from the new iGoogle so much as the way Google rolled out the changes and the lack of options Google gives its users.
For one thing, Google makes it nearly impossible to give feedback or request support on their free services. Their official blog doesn’t even take comments. My husband has been trying to make a relatively simple change to his Gmail, and not only does Google not allow the change, but they provide no way for him to get in touch with them to request the change or ask for help.
Well, Google is a free service. They don’t have to offer support.
I think that’s wrong. I use several free Web tools that offer excellent support. WordPress.com always responds in a timely and helpful way to my support emails. Hiveminder provides an option for reporting bugs or requesting features right on their interface. I have tweeted about problems I’m having with a software program and gotten an unexpected response from the software developers who are monitoring Twitter. Similarly, I have blogged about free tools, and the developers, who are obviously keeping on top of the blogs, have come by and commented.
Why doesn’t Google do this? Is it just too big? One of the reasons I blogged about iGoogle was because I had found a couple of pretty serious bugs, and I had no other outlet for reporting them.
People are pretty ticked off with Google for the changes made to iGoogle. The changes were made suddenly, without notice. There is no choice between old style and new style. And there is no way to let Google know directly how you feel. No wonder there is so much frustration.
I know Google is a monolith, but I think there is an opportunity here for a company that offers free services comparable to Google’s quality and is in touch with — and actually listens to — its users. Right now, the sense I get is that Google completely discounts its users — at least, its non-paying users — and that won’t cut it on today’s web. No company can afford to ignore any of their customers.
Google may think they’re too big to care about the users of its free services. I think they’ll fiind out they’re wrong.
Please keep the conversation going, and tell me what you think in the comments.