What is the worst part of Chrome's user interface design? There is one candidate I'd like to nominate.
The user interface to change the default font in Google's Chrome browser makes me cringe. To see if you agree, here are the basic steps a user follows to change the font:
1) Wrench = Settings?
To change something in Chrome first requires you figure out that clicking the wrench icon is how to change browser settings. For a computer savvy person ok, I'll buy this, but for many people I know (my parents included) this has already failed. I totally get the reason behind this - Minimalist design is aesthetically pleasing and the lack of clutter on average can provide a better user experience. However even when this philosophy works it's still going to have trade-offs and this case is one of them. Overall I don't begrudge Google the choice of wrench in the spirit of simplicity. It's a trade-off (like all designs require) but even good trade-offs have their negative side.
2) Under the Hood is Scary
Once you get to the Chrome options the next step in changing the default font is to select a tab called "Under the Hood".
It seems a bit ironic that these correlations exist:
Need big font > Have poor vision > Vision degrades with age > The older you are the less likely you want to click on features called Under the Hood
Maybe to change the default font they could make you click "Stick a fork in my eye…" Usability would probably be about the same, but it might add a little variety to the experience.
3) Web Content is Meaningless
Users making it this far will find the font settings to be categorized under "Web Content". At first this might seem reasonable. On second thought almost anything in Chrome could be shoehorned into this category - it's a web browser for the love of...! It's entire purpose is to help you with web content. My only idea on how it could be more over-generalized would be if the category was "Internet Stuff".
4) Eliminate Scrolling by Using Tabs which Require Scrolling
The final step to finding the default font settings is to realize that you must scroll down within the Under the Hood tab before you can see anything related to fonts. The first problem with this is some designers just consider it bad design to scroll too much within tabs because one of the main reasons for the tab metaphor was to reduce the need for scrolling (run-on sentence intentional).
Changing the font in Chrome fails at least two common usability benchmarks. First, it will often fail the parent test (unless your parents are fairly software savvy). Second, the discoverability is really poor.
Discoverability isn't everything as Scott points out, however it shouldn't suffer any more than is necessary for a balanced experience. Could some of the steps above be made more discoverable without hurting the overall balance of feature priorities? It doesn't seem difficult to do.
Some may say, if you hate Chrome so much just quit using it!
However I don't hate Chrome - in general I respect the work Google has done. To be fair, this is one small feature within a vast body of design and engineering. Regardless of my feelings though I'm compelled to use all browsers - developers are commonly using a variety of browsers for testing, research, etc. This is not likely to change, just like my vision is not likely to improve.