5 Reasons why Google+ is interesting UI.

The Google+ launch has been very positive for Google so far. I think it’s interesting from a UI standpoint for several reasons: 1. Andy Hertzfeld is lead Designer. This surprised a lot of people. Andy Hertzfeld is one of the original Apple Macintosh team members and is the lead designer of Google+, focusing on the […]

The Google+ launch has been very positive for Google so far. I think it’s interesting from a UI standpoint for several reasons:

1. Andy Hertzfeld is lead Designer. This surprised a lot of people. Andy Hertzfeld is one of the original Apple Macintosh team members and is the lead designer of Google+, focusing on the circles feature. This tidbit was big news last week, with many publications seeming to give Andy sole credit for the UI, so Andy wrote about his involvment and shared the credit with the other team members involved. Class act by Andy.

2. Increasing rivalry with Facebook. Dhanji Prasanna, an ex-Google+ engineer, wrote a post this weekend sharing some details of his time with the Google+ team, and there are two interesting bits. First, he describes how the circles project got started in part as the result of the research that Paul Adams had been doing:

“A few years ago, before the CEO cared a whit about social networking or identity, a Google User Experience researcher named Paul Adams created a slide deck called the Real Life Social Network. In a very long and well-illustrated talk, he makes the point that there is an impedence mismatch between what you share on facebook and your interactions in real life. So when you share a photo of yourself doing something crazy at a party, you don’t intend for your aunt and uncle, workmates or casual acquaintances to see it. But facebook does not do a good job of making this separation.”

Second, Dhanji describes the Google+ team’s response to the new Facebook Groups feature, which was built in part as a response to Adams’ research.

“Then it happened–facebook finally released the product they’d been working on so secretly, their answer to Paul’s thesis. The team lead at facebook even publicly tweeted a snarky jab at Google. Their product was called Facebook Groups.

I was dumbstruck. Was I reading this correctly? I quickly logged on and played with it, to see for myself. My former colleagues had started a Google Wave alumni group, and I even looked in there to see if I had misunderstood. But no–it seemed that facebook had completely missed the point.

And…it should be noted that Paul Adams left Google in December and now works at Facebook.

3. It puts Google on the design map. I’ve never heard as many designers saying such nice things about Google as they have in the past two weeks. In releasing a relatively polished, solid UI for Google+, they have started to turn their reputation around. This not only makes for better software, but it should help with recruiting as well. (this should not be discounted…Google is in a recruiting war with Facebook and Twitter…which is great! for designers)

4. Part of a bigger redesign. Google+ is taking on some new design styles that are part of a bigger redesign effort from Google. In the past few weeks they’ve redesigned Search, Gmail, Calendar…basically all of their properties. And, for the most part, these efforts have all been positive and made their software feel more professional, clean, and consistent. I know a couple folks who like the old style, but the vast majority of folks I’ve talked to like the new style.

5. Strong win for UX Research – Finally I think that Google+, even if it doesn’t grow to the size of Facebook, is a big win for UX research. The work that Paul and other folks at Google did over the past couple years led to a really innovative design. It will be interesting to see if the discrete sharing model works or if it’s too much management for folks. (I’ve started to use it to share with small groups…seems promising)

So there are a few reasons why I think Google+ is interesting from a design standpoint. I’m still amazed at the rise of social software…it wasn’t long ago that social was completely dismissed by nearly everyone. But, humans are social animals…as they say.

Published: July 11th, 2011

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