The Google Apps administrative experience has become a proverbial dog’s breakfast. And by dog’s breakfast, I mean a fucking mess.
Packages and products have been bolted together under a single login, and the administrative interfaces have been bolted together in a similar fashion. Separately, they probably made some sense. Together, they most certainly don’t.
Below is a list of the dashboards and administrative homepages that I’m aware of, how each is accessed and a brief description of what I *think* you can do from each:
- Account settings: This is accessed from the various product interfaces. Click on your username and hit Account Settings. It allows you to change your password and see the products that you’ve registered with
- Mail settings: This is accessed from the cog at the top of Google Mail. It allows you to configure your Google Mail experience. There are similar pages for some of the other product offerings, such as Google Calendar.
- Manage this domain: This is accessed from the Manage this domain link in the header bar of some of the Google products, such as Google Mail. It’s vast in its complexity, with settings pages for each of the products. It should be noted, however, that these settings pages are in no way related to the settings pages in bullet 2 above.
I kind of get it. I think the Manage this domain feature comes with me being, as it were, the master of my domain. I own osirra.com, so I am responsible for its master settings: what you can and can’t do in it, how Mail should be configured for each and every one of my three users (one of whom is four years old), how names and dates should be displayed, what logo to display (it took me an age to find that the other day), yada-yada.
Mail settings, along with its sibling settings pages, operates a level below this, allowing users within the domain to tinker with the lower-level features of that product: filters, look and feel, labels, forwarding and the like.
And account settings are specific to the user account, allowing you to change your password and access the products.
But the hierarchy is far from clear. And the navigational tools to drive you to the various admin. pages don’t do a good job in informing you what to expect, or whether you should be going there in the first place.
It took several weeks for me to uninstall Rapportive, a Google add-on furnishing me with additional information about people with whom I interact. I simply couldn’t remember where I’d added the feature, and couldn’t for the life in me remember where to deactivate it. I eventually managed to find it, but don’t ask me where—that information is long gone.
Maybe the cumbersome user experience is exacerbated by my very flat (and narrow) organisational structure. I am account owner, product user and domain administrator in my little world. But I can’t help but thinking that it would be similarly bad in a larger organisation.
Google needs to sort this out. I can’t go on like this.