Google Search Designer Explains Why Some Features & Tools Get Axed


Google often removes features from their search results and other services. Jon Wiley, Google’s Principal Designer of Google Search in a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) thread answered the question on why Google removes features people love.

Most recently, Google completely disabled the Google discussion forum search filter, which was actually removed from the search tools in January 2014 along with other features. Jon was asked specifically about that, but since he was not directly involved in that decision, he answered why Google removes some features that people love.

John said that “when you add a feature, no one complains about it outright; if they don’t love it they mostly just ignore it.” But when you remove something, especially with Google, people notice. Jon explained that “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,” with Google. “It can seem like a tidal wave of opposition to the removal,” he added.

It would seem it would be easier to just leave all the features and never remove it but it is not, Jon explained. If you take that approach, “you end up with bloatware.” Jon said:

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?

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.

So Google thinks hard before removing your loved features but sometimes, even the features prominent Googlers want, also get on the chopping block.

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