<!–:st–>Near-identical naming confuses users. <!–st:–>
So you think you’re familiar with Google Apps? Let’s see how you go at this three-question quiz.
What’s the name of the cloud productivity suite in Google Apps? What’s the name of the suite’s document editor? And what do you call the suite’s file management screen?
The correct answers for the first two questions are Google Docs and Google Documents (formerly Google Docs) respectively. Any answer for the third question is probably incorrect as the file management interface has no official name.
Internally Googlers refer to the list of documents and associated metadata as the Google Docs List – and yet the interface’s software connector is called the Google Documents List API.
The naming mixup arose from the patchwork way Google built its productivity suite from a string of acquisitions. The document editor was bought first and the other applications added. The name changed twice as a result.
“We actually launched Google Documents first and it was called Google Docs. When you launch just a document editor, Docs is a great brand. And then we launched Spreadsheets, so then it was called Google Documents and Spreadsheets. And then you throw presentations in and you go Ok, now we need an Office-like brand, so we went back to Google Docs, and called it Documents, Spreadsheets and Presentations,” Anil Sabharwal, Google’s head of mobile product development, says with a laugh.
The almost identical naming of the suite, the editor and the document-management interface has not just confused Google customers. Google itself seems unsure where it stands – apart from the incorrectly named API, the tab for Google Docs in the top menu of the Google Apps suite is labelled “Google Documents”. The inconsistency has made it difficult to communicate changes to the separate products.
Google recently upgraded its Google Docs app for Android smartphones and tablets to improve integration with the Google Docs List interface. For the first time the revised app let users share documents, “star” documents and see previews from their mobile device. Users could also navigate and organise their folders (Google calls them collections).
But after the launch Google’s mobile team encountered frustrated users who had expected improvements to editing documents and spreadsheets.
“The (negative) feedback we received in the most recent release about the editor is the exact same feedback we received when we first launched because we haven’t changed anything (in the editing interface). The feedback that had anything to do with our intent was actually extremely positive,” Anil says.
“The challenge for us is that the Google Docs brand is everything. When users see the Docs app their expectation is, ‘Oh that means a spreadsheets editor, presentations editor, documents editor, Doc List, Drawings’. I think that’s a challenge of the broader brand.”
Anil says Google is hard at work improving the editing interface for spreadsheets, documents and presentations in Google Docs. He hints that a major update is due early next year.
And it will be called Google Documents app for Android instead of Google Docs?
“Exactly. It seems pretty obvious to me,” Anil laughs.