Attaching files to your Google Base items

Thursday, August 03, 2006 at 10:57 PM

By Ellen Beldner, User Experience Designer

Today we launched a feature on Google Base that will let you attach certain types of files to your Google Base item. You can still upload pictures of your item and we'll display them in a picture show when people view your item page. But now you can also attach most types of digital documents, like Portable Document Format (PDF), Microsoft Word (DOC), and plain text (TXT). You can attach up to 15 separate files per item, with a total size limit of 20 megabytes (MB). Naturally, you can only post files that you're legally allowed to distribute, and for now this only works for one-at-a-time item postings -- not for bulk uploads.

For this launch, we also redesigned the uploader widget. Over the past few months I've been working with Donal Mountain, our user experience researcher for Google Base, to understand the existing usability problems and correct them with new designs.

The old uploader tool:

The new uploader tool:

The old upload tool definitely had problems. It wasn't clear to some of our testers that to add a picture from their computer, they had to click the "Browse" button to choose a file. Once people figured that part out and picked a file, they didn't realize that they had to click the "OK" button to get the file from their computer to Google Base.

Of course this stuff is confusing! If you're trying to upload or attach a picture, why on earth should you click a button that mysteriously says "OK"? Or if you're trying to tell the website which picture you want from your computer, why would a button called "Browse" be the right one to click? Most testers who figured this out were people who have been using the Internet for a while and have learned that "Browse" (secretly!) means "Choose a file from your computer."

In response to the issues that our testers uncovered, the Base engineers -- Karthik and Deepak -- and I built new designs to make the upload widget clearer and more obvious. We added some new mini-features that make a lot of sense -- for example, you can now add captions to your photos and select a main photo, which is the one that appears in search results and as the default image on your item page. And of course, we changed the "OK" button to say "Attach." (The button is disabled until you actually pick a file, to help make what you're doing more clear.)

In addition to the usability fixes, we also added a virus checker, support for the Mac OS Safari web browser, and a feature that lets you queue up files for uploading -- so you don't have to wait for one file to finish before adding the next.

The Base team is always looking for your feedback, so contact us whenever you find something about Base that bugs you or that you like. We also have a few more improvements on the way for the digital content uploader, so keep watching.