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Why Google isn’t afraid to kill your favorite products

Why Did Google Remove a Feature or Product

In addition to explaining why Google actually needs the gorgeous new Material Design deployed on Android L, android apps and the web, Google’s Search design guru Jon Wiley talked during the same Reddit Ask-Me-Anything (AMA) session about the reasons why Google has to sometimes remove features from products, or products, even though some people may still be interested in using them.

One user asked Wiley why Google removed a specific Search feature – in this case the Google Discussion search filter that allowed him to search forums and discussions, and the exec offered quite an extensive reply.

“One thing that’s almost always guaranteed with product design: when you add a feature, no one complains about it outright; if they don’t love it they mostly just ignore it,” Wiley said. “Whereas if you take something away, you’ll hear about it if people relied upon it… loudly and often. With something like Google Search, even if just a small fraction of people miss a feature and an even smaller fraction says so, that can still be tens of thousands of people. It can seem like a tidal wave of opposition to the removal: ‘look at all these people who want it back!’”

“So it would be much easier to leave in everything that’s ever launched. But then you end up with bloatware: an unwieldy array of ill-fitting modules that don’t work well with newer technologies (e.g., the shift to smartphones, or upgraded security, or touchscreens, etc.) and don’t really serve most of your users well either. And nothing comes for free – every feature must be maintained, supported in multiple languages, on multiple devices, and the additional complexity must be accounted for in testing so that the entire service remains reliable. And that cost gets balanced against the impact: is this feature solving an important problem for lots of people?” he said.

“There are many, many such features that you always have to make tough choices about. We’ve actually cut features that I love. This is one of the toughest but most important parts of designing products – deciding what to trim as you move forward. Sometimes you over-trim – we work to measure the impact and aim to strike the right balance. Sometimes we get it wrong, so it is important that people speak up. We really do listen, and we prioritize according to what seems to satisfy the widest needs given our capabilities,” Wiley concluded.

While Google is not afraid to remove the kind of things from Search or other products that Wiley talked about, the company is also considering other features that can be added to Search across devices to further improve the user’s experience.

“A much bigger and fuzzier problem to tackle is something like the question [what color should I paint my bedroom?] Even if Google had the perfect technology, ‘blue’ isn’t really the answer you want. Questions like these are actually an invitation to have a conversation about a topic. Figuring out how to do that right, while still making things simple, fast, and reliable, is a tall order,” the Google exec said during the AMA.

In a different conversation he also said that certain search tools will be available in the future on the Google Search Android app, so users won’t have to go to the browser for more advanced search options.

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he closely follows the events in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises. Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.