I want to access my gmail, but when I try to login in via the web it shows an alert "verify its you". In case if I lost my mobile or the phone is dead or network is down, I'm unable to verify the code and unable to access my Gmail.

Is Gmail verification really user friendly?

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  • I've a feeling that google requires a particularly long password nowadays. The 'password game' is now so complicated that I have a file on my computer where I have them all written down... – PhillipW Jul 15 '17 at 7:00

I wrote this as a comment at first, but just remember today my wife had a different user case that demonstrates how bad it is.

To answer your specific question: Not at all. As a matter of fact, I wrote an article (in Spanish, can be seen here) . Just the title translation: *Failure in usability, accessibility and security... all at the same time".

The article example illustrated just a common user case: I had to access my account at an internet cafe and forgot my glasses. From there, all hell broke loose. The conclusion from that article was "It's not the best, but certainly not the worse"

Today, I have to review that opinion.

Another User Case... Another Failure

My wife had to check their mails on an old Google account she didn't use for months. She also had to use her new computer in our new office.

She tried her most common passwords, to no avail. So she asked for the security question, and somehow it was wrong (granted, my wife is the kind of person who forgets everything, but still).

She finally asked for a code to be sent to her recovery email address on file, this time from Yahoo.

Once she got the code, she tried to use it and got a message like

"Sorry, we couldn't verify this login, try another method"

So she finally had to ask for it to be sent by phone, for which she had to include a phone since she didn't have it on file. Then she had to move between device screens (phone --> computer) to actually get the code, enter it and finally after 15-20 minutes she actually got access to her account.

While my user case might have been somehow edge-ish (personally, I think forgetting your glasses isn't exactly edgy, but well...), the one for my wife is really really common.

Besides, you would think a company like Google would test common cases like.... using another computer!. This is not an edge case, this is the whole definition of nowadays state-of-the-art, and they're failing miserably at it. Funny thing is 2 years ago the process was almost flawless and way more secure!

Schneiderman's 8 Golden Rules of Interface Design

For those that think this is just an opinion based on specific user cases, there are commonly accepted heuristics to measure this, starting by "Shneiderman's Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design". Read below:

These rules were obtained from the text Designing the User Interface by Ben Shneiderman. Shneiderman proposed this collection of principles that are derived heuristically from experience and applicable in most interactive systems after being properly refined, extended, and interpreted [9]. To improve the usability of an application it is important to have a well designed interface. Shneiderman's "Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design" are a guide to good interaction design.

1 Strive for consistency. Consistent sequences of actions should be required in similar situations; identical terminology should be used in prompts, menus, and help screens; and consistent commands should be employed throughout.

Debatable. Obviously, having to jump between devices is not the most consistent experience you will find. But let's admit that it's consistent between devices, so it's 50/50

2 Enable frequent users to use shortcuts. As the frequency of use increases, so do the user's desires to reduce the number of interactions and to increase the pace of interaction. Abbreviations, function keys, hidden commands, and macro facilities are very helpful to an expert user.

Fail Obviously, having to jump between devices you won't be able to use any shortcuts at all. Furthermore, interactions are increased, even in the friendliest scenario. This is an objective measure, so there no much room for debate.

3 Offer informative feedback. For every operator action, there should be some system feedback. For frequent and minor actions, the response can be modest, while for infrequent and major actions, the response should be more substantial.

Debatable. You can say that feedback is informative, even if what to do with that is a bit inconsistent and you'll have feedback on one device and not on another. But well, let's say that is not a complete failure.

4 Design dialog to yield closure. Sequences of actions should be organized into groups with a beginning, middle, and end. The informative feedback at the completion of a group of actions gives the operators the satisfaction of accomplishment, a sense of relief, the signal to drop contingency plans and options from their minds, and an indication that the way is clear to prepare for the next group of actions.

Failure. Can we agree this is not even close to reality? Quite the opposite!

5 Offer simple error handling. As much as possible, design the system so the user cannot make a serious error. If an error is made, the system should be able to detect the error and offer simple, comprehensible mechanisms for handling the error.

Failure. Again, if doing the simplest action requires to: a) have another device or b) go back to your home and use the same device you always used it's more than clear that you can't handle errors in a simple way. For example... what if I don't have a mobile phone and I'm out of home? I can't access MY OWN INFORMATION! The definition of anti-usability!

6 Permit easy reversal of actions. This feature relieves anxiety, since the user knows that errors can be undone; it thus encourages exploration of unfamiliar options. The units of reversibility may be a single action, a data entry, or a complete group of actions.

Failure. Obviously, having to jump between devices this is literally impossible.

7 Support internal locus of control. Experienced operators strongly desire the sense that they are in charge of the system and that the system responds to their actions. Design the system to make users the initiators of actions rather than the responders.

Failure. The biggest failure of all: Google denies control to users on purpose.

8 Reduce short-term memory load. The limitation of human information processing in short-term memory requires that displays be kept simple, multiple page displays be consolidated, window-motion frequency be reduced, and sufficient training time be allotted for codes, mnemonics, and sequences of actions.

Debatable. Personally I think it's a failure, but if we accept that performing simple actions will require multiple devices and processes and it's still acceptable UX (and I really have not a clue how we got to this acceptance), then maybe we can let this one pass.

In short

Problem is that Google was always concerned about being seen as very secure. After all, they have the data of almost anyone in the world! However, while Google has great UX teams, UX and usability were never the strongest sides of Google (I don't know why, since their UX teams are amazing. Probably politics and egos, but really don't know).

Bottom line is: If a common user case becomes a nightmare, then the answer is no, it's really bad

  • 1
    So you wife switched computer, entered a bunch of wrong passwords and entered a wrong security question answer. Nonetheless, she finally managed to get in, right? I wonder why the recovery email didn't work, it may be a bug, but that's pretty improbable. Maybe one more authentication was deemed necessary after these many failures. Btw., Google sends me confirmation codes per SMS and recently I discovered how to zoom SMS: Press the volume button (Samsung Android), maybe it works for you, too. – maaartinus Jul 16 '17 at 2:08
  • not sure if I'm getting what you mean. Are you saying that having to go through many steps and different devices to perform a simple action is good usability? If so, maybe I have a very different perception of what good usability is. – Devin Jul 16 '17 at 3:10
  • No, I'm saying that after having failed that many steps, she can call herself lucky that it finally went well. I'm sure, she could have log in immediately after having entered the correct password once, but IIUYC she did not (I'm sure as I sometime use gmail on a new computer). The phone verification alone would have probably sufficed as well. All the other steps were unnecessary and therefore they had to fail. But I may be misunderstanding you. – maaartinus Jul 16 '17 at 3:22
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    +1 to maartinus' comments. It's a user friendly system because it gives you so many options, and your wife could have gotten it correct on any of the previous steps. The good thing is that it allows you to go on and try another before having to contact a real human which could take many days to get the issue resolved. – Liam Hammett Jul 17 '17 at 10:05
  • @Devin - I am not sure I can agree with ANY of your points. I feel like your answer is more of a rant! For some reason, you want to sync multiple devices to the same account and yet have an issue with using those devices. Obviously, I cannot talk about all the 8 points here in comments (also the link is broken, kindly fix that) but if you're open to it, we could take this up in chat and discuss. – Shreyas Tripathy Jul 18 '17 at 4:34

You have to understand the fact that the reason why you're seeing this is because the multi-factor authentication was activated, by you.

I understand your concern about the process not seeming so seamless. But, I can't really fault Google or any other application for doing this especially when there are multiple devices involved.

Note that the first option is as easy as simply accessing a linked device. Also note that users WOULD complain if there weren't alternatives, or security, or syncing .... I could go on.

The point is, good UX doesn't always have to be a one-step process or a completely non-intrusive one.

Is this user-friendly?

Unless you're in a hurry to delete an email from the University with semester results, yes.

  • 1
    I have multi-factor authentication disabled, and still got this nightmare. Anyways, any process where even the most simple task (like... accessing your own account) requires many steps and different devices in order to do it is the definition of not user friendly by any UX heuristic (on a side note, this is quite insecure as well) . Also, it's common for users to complain about how difficult is to login to Google, but I never head anyone complaining on Google's low security. Wouldn't you agree that this is very bad usability? – Devin Jul 15 '17 at 18:17
  • @Devin - No I don't agree with you. In fact, I think the UX of what google has done is VERY usable. – JonH Jul 17 '17 at 19:06
  • I don't want to point this to Shreyas' answer, so this is for @JonH (in teh future, please comment my answer). Anyways, if using different devices and different approaches with many different possibilities of failure that ACTUALLY HAPPEN and without testing borderline edge cases is good usability, we might have very different conceptions of what good usability is. For starters, it doesn't comply with the 8 rules of heuristics, and this is just ONE of several dimensions where it fails. – Devin Jul 17 '17 at 20:19
  • I whole heartedly disagree with you and your answer. – JonH Jul 17 '17 at 20:36

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