Google – and the User Experience!

RockmusicRaider - Google Core Web Vitals - User Experience or UX

If you’re running a website or you work in SEO1) and you haven’t really been operating from a Nuclear Bomb Shelter without communications, you certainly heard about Google’s latest stunt to drive supposedly better User Experience, also known as UX. The feature, somewhat loftily, calls itself Core Web Vitals. As if, without them, no website would be able to operate conveniently. But more to that later.

Google started announcing this solution in search of a problem back in 2020 and it went live in the course of 2021. In short, the cerebral ones at Google HQ boasted this idea that a great UX depended on stringent adherence to their very own vital signs. It is a bit like those Vital Signs Monitors in hospitals that live beside any patient’s bed. Only this time, this set of measures is designed for websites and on eternal connection to The Kraken. Directly feeding still more needless data into the mighty innards of the Google spaghetti monster.

I must say, the Google organization really continues to impress me with its ability to steal ever more data from its unsuspecting victims. And that – friends – is true gold mining in the digital age. But we all knew that already, right?

With the implementation of the new measures, Google started to ditch the monitoring of desktop data and decided to focus on mobile communication. Desktop monitoring is still there, but more as an afterthought. So, in this article, we will mainly focus on the mobile side of things.

By the time of writing this rant, the ‘vitals’ contain four measures:

  • First Contentful Paint (FCP)
    This is when you first see something on screen. In other words, data is loading, but it’s not yet complete.
  • First Input Delay (FID)
    The time it takes until you can actually click on something.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
    It’s this annoying habit of a loading site that always moves the content, as more and more media content gets added.
  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
    A fully interactive screen. Or the content visible on screen before the first scroll.

So, these are the measures by which The Kraken will judge all of us measly webmasters and users at large. But, why do they exist at all?

Well, the Google crew, in their almost religious fervor to right perceived wrongs of search engine land, found that large swathes of the world still operate on lower standards. Meaning, UX truly sucks for those still cradling their beloved 3G phones, let alone 2G. And that’s of course true, even if 4G largely is the standard these days with 5G coming up fast. It is also true that big parts of – for example – rural Africa still largely depend on 2G, whereas 3G is just about becoming mainstream.

But all this of course hasn’t anything to do with an innate need to improve UX for the suffering masses across the globe. Instead, commercial considerations abound, and it is a simple concept. If you can get more people on low-quality networks to surf more, clicks on ads will inevitably follow. Meaning, The Kraken is embarking on a bout of profit maximization at the expense of webmasters and users of CRMs. And that’s a truly smart move.

So, Google will go out of their way to try and force webmasters and users to tune their websites to load reasonably fast on 3G or on largely throttled 4G networks. Only, here’s the rub: This is not an issue for SEOs to try and twist themselves into pretzels to somehow serve the mighty Google monster. Because if they do that, all the fun will be squeezed out of any site and you’ll be left with static pages. A giant friggin’ university-style library, covered in dust and just as boring.

Instead, once you dig into the documentation, you’ll quickly find that without recoding the site, you ain’t going very far. Sweet, huh? Well, not all of us are coders, and most surely don’t have the deep pockets to hire a specialist. It is thus an industry problem and – for sure – not one for the users of CRMs. If it is a problem at all, that is.

In other words, Google here try to change the world again. They picked the User Experience battleground as the new holy grail. But, as they are in essence only a search engine, they start to annoy webmasters and SEOs with demands they cannot possibly meet. And in turn – they threaten them to kill their rankings. The ‘or else’ thing all over, unless those poor souls running websites help in the rush for more profits.

This, instead, should prompt all those tortured ones to lean on developers to do Google’s bidding. It’s a tactic we have seen used in politics, and it works through the purse. Politicians created that playbook to get the people to ram difficult proposals down the clenched throats of industry reps. Let the people complain, which should prompt the industry at large to come up with convenient solutions. Entry by the back door at minimum effort, if you will.

Ultimately, I’d wish that Google would revert back to being a simple search engine. Lean, mean, and truly efficient. It has become a lumbering monster that tries to use the unpaid masses to do their bidding and make tons of money. Apart from freely stealing data from people who might not even know that this is being done to them.

In addition, Google should stop to try fixing things that aren’t broken. And if it’s truly an issue, maybe they need to try and work with the industry to get to the root cause of their perceived problems.

To add insult to injury, this all works into the hands of regulators that are already in their starting blocks to start breaking up entities that have become way too powerful for their own good. Or regulate them to death, in case things don’t pan out that way.

And that, definitely, is no good for the end user and the holy User Experience.


Raid a comment or twenty!