Nice people make nice designs

Like the name of the post suggests. It’s just a belief that I have had since I was introduced to terms like HCI, Usability, User Focus, User Experience Design etc etc etc. When I read and learnt more about these thing to start applying them to my work, I felt I was becoming sensitive to the idea in various aspects of my life.  The way you drive on the road, the way you treat strangers around you, the way you are sensitive to the needs of other people.

I remember standing on the Delhi Metro platform a number of times, getting pushed and jostled around, having people thrust their smelly armpits towards me, people looking away when they see an elderly/pregnant person standing so they wouldn’t have to give away their seats .. and I remember thinking, now this guy could never make a user friendly design. They are just not friendly to the people around them.

Or when you’re driving on the road. God knows all those blessed with vehicles have also been blessed with rear view mirrors in the same. And we can safely assume (hopefully) that they are trained to follow traffic rules. But when people drive with their lights on high beams, drive at full speed in residential areas, swerve without looking in the rear view and think they own the road. These guys probably can never make a user friendly design.

I own a Hyundai i20 and though a few acquaintances have had a bad experience with theirs, I find the car a delight to use. The entire experience is focused towards the comfort and convenience of the driver and I simply love driving it. Now the people who designed this car – Nice people! 🙂

This is perhaps just an inherent belief. Maybe one that I have cultivated over a few years now, all through observation – of myself and others. Maybe I am just shooting a baseless arrow in the dark here. But I truly believe usability touches (or should touch)  all aspects in our lives. Especially for those who design for usability. Life around us is a wonderful training ground. Which is why I say nice designs are made by people who are nice … or get trained to be nice 🙂

[Disclaimer: The author of this post by no means wants to imply that she is a nice person or that she makes nice designs. But she assures you that she knows nice people who make fantastic designs :-)]

Is Google losing the race because it’s trying to catch up?

There was a time when every company wanted to be a Google. That was back when Google was being itself, was leading the pack and making stuff  THEY believed was of  value. Examples? Google Maps, Google Docs … way back with Gmail, way way way back when it all started with Google Search.

They had a little something going for them back then. All you had to do was land up on a Google application and you just knew what to do. The applications were designed so intuitively, that as a user you really didn’t have to think about what to do next. I remember thinking, Hey I wish I could do that! Make something that simple to use.

But something started going wrong along the way. Wave happened. A tremendous buzz was created about it (pardon the pun). A lot of anticipation built up with the way it was introduced and the way invites were restricted in the beginning (Now I have about twenty of them lying waste in my inbox and no takers. I even offered them out on Twitter and no one was interested). I don’t know about others, but Wave really failed to create any ripples in my life. I hardly log onto it – like never.

Where Wave came with a bang, Google Buzz crept up on us silently. I woke up one morning with my Twitter timeline abuzz about this new “Social Networking” platform from Google. There was a lot of anticipation and sure I was intrigued too. So ok Wave failed, but a Social Networking site from Google’s gotta be something to look forward to right? Umm.. Apparently not. This time round Google was faster. I got access to the application the very next day. It was in my inbox when I logged in. So obviously I checked it out. But it left me confused. I opened Buzz and I didnt know what to do next! (which is so

unlike Google!)

Google Buzz creating a fuss. Some examples of the concerns expressed by tweeps.

First of all it took me through this initial compulsory step of making my Profile. There were 4 things prepopulated for me and nothing really for me to do there. Moving on.. I land up on the interface and well I don’t frankly know what to do. I see a field there and I write a post. Was getting late for work so logged off after that. The next time I logged into gmail, I had an Email from Google Buzz that 4 people had written a comment on my post. This kinda ticked me off you know. I mean Buzz was RIGHT there in my inbox! Why did I need another EMAIL from them? I could go on complaining about how Google decided for me who I should follow and how it exposes my contacts to everyone else etc etc.. but I think a lot of people already have that covered.

What I don’t get is, why should I use Buzz? I wanna connect with my close group of friends all open in public – already doing that on FB. I wanna post updates and get to connect with the world at large – Twitter’s covering me for that. Talk instantly with my very close group of friends – Covered and right there in the Google inbox. So what is it that Buzz is offering to me that isn’t already in my Google inbox and other sites? Maybe I am slow, maybe time will reveal it. But to be very frank, I don’t get what I will ever use Buzz for. It just seems to be adding another distraction when I am already over-booked and hooked and cooked with the other SN sites.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not anti-Google. Or anti-social networking. Infact ask  some of my friends and they will tell you how much time I spend on these sites. And I do think Google does continue to provide tremendous value in some things. Their integrating real-time twitter search in their search results for an example. I was really impressed with that. But there was a difference there. There Google partnered with Twitter. They realised someone is better than them at real-time info, so they collaborated with them. Isn’t that the entire power of Web 2.0? Collaboration? Needn’t be just between the people using the services. Why can’t the services talk to each other to provide us value? Google proved that with integrating real-time search. Why can’t they do the same with social networking sites? I mean obviously Facebook and Twitter have the lead there and doing enough of one-up-man-ship in that area. Why does Google want to take the same stuff and repackage it? Why can it not collaborate with Facebook and Twitter and work out a way for us to easily manage the already heavy bombardment of information rather than pointing yet another cannon in our direction?

So why is Google doing this? Is it the panic of losing out to the FBs and Twitters of the world? After all they came much after Google and a huge threat to be as big a name as Google. Bing must’ve surely caused a heart-flutter there too somewhere. So does that mean Google should try to be another FB and Twitter?I don’t think so. Clearly by doing so they are actually just losing out. Google should stick to doing what they do best and that is being themselves. They will lose their personality – of being revolutionary, intuitive, simple and mindblowingly easy to use – and eventually get lost in the crowd if they try to be a part of the crowd.

This is my rather long (and maybe inexperienced) observation of the scenario. Comments and opinions are of course welcome 🙂