This Google Ads #UXFAIL Is Costing Customers Thousands of Dollars

Like most businesses these days, we run ads on Google to try and attract new business. The concept of Google Ads is great in theory because it helps you get found by people that are already searching for your type of business. However, despite the enormous success of Google, it is not without its flaws — especially from a UX design perspective. We already covered the 5 Things The New Gmail Design Got Wrong so we don’t want to look like we’re picking on Google – but this #UXFail is actually costing Google’s customers hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars each month.

Google Ads has a campaign type called “Call Only” ads. As the name implies, these ads are geared towards getting people to call your business. Well, during the pandemic we decided to run some Call Only ads and instead of qualified leads we received hundreds of calls from people looking for their local Unemployment Insurance office. Our phone began ringing off the hook – but for all the wrong reasons. At first we assumed there was something wrong with the way Google routes calls from their number (to track the clicks) to our business number. Google looked into it and they said it was not an issue. We tried asking each caller where they got our number and most just said they “Googled it”. We talked to our phone company to see if they could track down any routing issues. Given the fact that millions of people were suddenly unemployed, we thought the phone systems could be getting overloaded and causing issues. They found no issues. We looked up Unemployment Insurance office phone numbers to see if our phone number was published by mistake anywhere. It was not. We spent weeks and hundreds of dollars on clicks trying to figure out the issue until we gave up and just paused the Call Only ads.

Finally, a Breakthrough

TGA Google Ad

My brother owns TGA Legal Collections (shameless plug) and he asked me to help him run some Google Ads. These ads were set up to target companies that are looking to hire a firm to collect money from debtors that owe them money. Within one week of running his Call Only ads, he began getting calls. Unfortunately, the calls were not from companies but from debtors that were looking to make payments to a collection agency. Luckily, one of the debtors was nice enough to actually send my brother a screenshot of exactly what they Googled before calling his business. As you can see in the screenshot on the right, the debtor typed in the full name of the collection agency they were looking to make a payment to and the first result Google displayed was my brother’s ad. Clearly the debtor never read a word of the text in the ad — even after sending the screenshot to my brother — they just saw the huge phone number and clicked it.

Now you may think “why would someone click a phone number without reading who’s number it is?”. Well, a good UX designer always empathizes with users rather than blame them. So when we looked into it further it was clear that many Google users have become used to seeing the first result on Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP) as the one they want. Look at the screenshots below. Google a flight number and you get its status first. Google the weather and you see the weather first. Google the age of a celebrity and you see their age and photo first. It goes on and on. So when a Google user searches for a business, many users are being trained to believe that the first result is what they want and when they see a huge phone number they assume it’s the number of the business they want to call.

Google SERP

Google users have become used to seeing a result at the top as the one they need.

But Why Were These Ads Displayed At All?

The answer is simple: Since one of the main keywords we add to our UX Team campaign was “ui“, the ad was served up because millions of people during the pandemic were searching for their local Unemployment Insurance office — or “UI” office. Since one of the main keywords added to the TGA campaign is “collection agency“, the ad was served up because the debtor searched for “pressler collection agency“. So the ads being served up is not the issue. It’s doing exactly what it’s designed to do. The issue is that the users clicked the huge phone number without realizing it was not the number they wanted to dial.


While making the phone number so big may seem like a good design idea for a Call Only ad, it is actually a huge flaw that is costing Google customers thousands of dollars in erroneous clicks. The visual hierarchy of the ad design places so much weight on the phone number that it drowns out all the other elements that would have informed these people who’s number they were really dialing.

Google Ad UX Fail Blurred

The screen on the right is blurred to help reveal the design’s visual hierarchy.


The Possible Solution

One possible solution to this design flaw is to address the ad’s visual hierarchy. A good visual hierarchy assigns a visual weight to various elements in a design to help inform users of what is most important, somewhat important, and less important. In these Call Only ads, the visual hierarchy should assign a high visual weight to business name or headline, a medium visual weight to the phone number line, and a low visual weight to the description text. By assigning a high visual weight to the business or headline, the users are far more likely to read it and realize that “UX Team™ UX Designers” are not the Unemployment Insurance office.

Google Ads UX Fail Solution

The design on the right shows how a few adjustments to the placement and visual weight of elements can improve the design and reduce erroneous calls.













2016 Volvo XC60 Dashboard Design #UXFAIL

I own a 2016 Volvo XC60. It’s been a great car except for one glaring design flaw that probably only affects those of us that live in that special place I call ‘Designer’s Hell’. In this case, it’s the design of the main dashboard readout. Like most newer cars, the dashboard in the XC60 utilizes a software-driven dashboard display, which sounds cool, looks aesthetically cool, and provides some options that a non-digital dashboard could not provide, such as different design themes. The problem is that the usefulness of the readout fails miserably — especially with the ‘Elegance’ theme. Keep in mind that the users of this software-driven display are typically people driving down the highway at 65-75mph. So the design must be hyper-optimized for users that need to find important information within fractions of a second.

The thing that jumps out the most is that it is unimaginable that the design was ever tested with customers before it was rolled out. A 2-minute test with 5-10 customers containing these 2 questions would have quickly revealed the flaws:

  1. Can you tell how many miles of gas you have left?
  2. Can you tell if you are in normal ‘Drive’ mode or ‘Sport’ mode?

Below we focus on the design flaws of these 2 very important features for any dashboard.

Similarity And Proximity

2016 XC60 Gas Mileage Readout

The above picture highlights how the remaining gas mileage indicator is located clear across the display from the main gas level indicator. To this day, I still find myself looking at the main gas level indicator area first when I’m looking for the remaining gas mileage. This is such an obvious design flaw, which also violates the design principle known as “Similarity And Proximity”.  In software design we use “Similarity” to inform the user about which elements are related to each other and which are not. In this case, all gas-related elements should be grouped together so the user only has one place to find anything related to gas. We would also use “Proximity” by placing those elements close to each other while keeping them visually separate from all other elements.


Omit Needless Things

One of my favorite (lesser known) design principles is “Omit Needless Things” – originally known as “Omit Needless Words“. In this case, we not only have two duplicate and competing gas icons but we also have conflicting directional arrows. One arrow is correctly placed on the right-side of the gas icon and is pointing right. The other is also pointing right but it is located on the left-side of the gas icon. The solution for this is simple — remove the redundant gas indicator on the right altogether.

What’s Selected?

Another important design principle in software design is clearly visually communicating where the user is and what is selected and what is not selected. Looking at the gear indicator on the left, it is difficult to tell if the car is in ‘Park’ or in ‘Sport’ mode or in both because there’s a white bar lit up next to the ‘P’ for ‘Park’ and the ‘+S’ is not only also lit up but it also appears underlined. Although, the underline may actually be a minus symbol (-) to coincide with the plus symbol (+), which only adds to the confusion of its purpose. When you move the shifter down to the ‘Drive’ position, it is still unclear if the car is in ‘Sport’ mode or regular ‘Drive’ mode because, again, the ‘+S’ indicator is lit up and underlined. It’s not until you slide the shifter to the left do you see that the ‘+S’ indicator turns yellow, which oddly enough is the only indicator that ever turns yellow.

In Conclusion

Since this is a software-driven display, it should be easy enough to upgrade and fix all these issues. As we have written about many times, good user experience design requires meticulous scrutiny of every micro-design decision. The design of this dashboard display clearly did not get the meticulous scrutiny it deserved.

Revised Gas Indicator

A revised gas indicator could look something like this whereby:

    1. All gas-related elements are combined into a single area
    2. “170 miles” is positioned below the ‘E’ since it is directly related to how many miles can be driven before the gas tank is empty
    3. There is now a single gas icon with the gas tank arrow properly located on the right-side of the icon

Revised Gear Indicator

A revised gear indicator could look something like this whereby:

    1. The selected gear position is highlighted by both a lit up white ‘D’ and the white bar while unselected hear positions are dimmed out.
    2. The ‘Sport’ mode indicator:
      1. Is no longer lit up when it is not selected
      2. No longer has a plus (+) or minus (-) symbol
      3. Aligns to the left of the ‘D’ since it related and, in fact, mimics the physical action of moving the shifter to the left of the Drive position when selecting the Sport mode.

“Where are my YouTube Videos?” #UXFAIL

If you’ve ever uploaded a video on YouTube, you may have found it difficult to find that video in your YouTube account later on after you’ve uploaded it. We can tell this is not a unique ‘user issue’ because if you Google “Where are my YouTube Videos?”, you will see step-by-step instructions and even video tutorials (shown below) on how to find the videos you uploaded to your YouTube account. To be clear, we’re not talking about trying to find your videos as if you were someone searching on YouTube that may be looking for a video like yours. We’re talking about finding a video in your YouTube account after you’ve uploaded it so that you can edit it or delete it or whatever.

The fact that Google had to write step-step-step instructions on something that should be so simple proves there’s a design flaw.

In addition, if there are people posting video tutorials that are viewed by hundreds of thousands of frustrated people, you have a major UX problem.

So, Where Are My Videos?

For some reason, not only are your videos buried in a link under your profile’s avatar but they’re in what appears to be a separate software product called “YouTube Studio beta“. How someone would know to go to the YouTube Studio beta product to find the videos they uploaded is one problem. The fact that YouTube is requiring its users to access a ‘beta’ version of this product as the only means to get to these videos, is a whole other problem. At UX Team, we often create video demonstrations or usability test recordings for our clients that we purposely keep “unlisted” so only someone with the direct link to the video can view that video. Apparently, the only way to find and edit these “unlisted” videos in your account is to use the YouTube Studio beta product. The problem is that most users probably think of “YouTube” as the whole product and not that there are sub-products within YouTube to do special things. This just adds an unnecessary level of confusion to the whole user experience.

The Simple Solution

Since we are a UX Design firm, we don’t want to just rant about the failures of others, we want to offer our help. In this case, the solution could be as simple as adding a ‘My Videos’ link to the main navigation menu. If YouTube did this, we bet there would be a lot less people asking and searching for where to find their own videos.


== UPDATE! ==

YouTube must have gotten feedback (or read this post :-) ) because they just updated their main navigation menu to include a “Your videos” link!

Bravo YouTube, Bravo!

YouTube Your videos link