Posts Tagged G+

Some thoughts on the latest G+ User Interface

Last week Google made a significant refresh of the user interface to their G+ social network system.

Google+ – UI update Introduction

 

 

There were obviously much comment made on the likes and dis-likes of the revised interface.

I see it as a positive improvement and also a stepping stone on to further service integration and UI tweaks.

The reason I see it as a “stepping stone” move, is the number of comments the perceived unused quantities of “white space” that have been placed into this iteration of the UI.

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      I like the vertical left navigation menu that Google has introduced.

   What I’d like to see the options is

Like this:

G  More-3

So you can see | view Gmail in the same interface window (browser tab) as G+.

So perhaps the “whitespace” section could be preview of the GMail inbox | Google Docs,  or by using the GMail |Google Docs icon from the vertical menu you would use those services inside the G+ wrapper.

I would even suggest Gmail could deliver message notification inside the G+ stream, while still being able to filter into the inbox, the time | activity stream of G+ and Gmail message can occupy the same flow.

For example Photos are already well integrated into the G+ interface – so I don’t particularly see why others can’t be.

In fact both these  Photos lead to the same place.

Universal Menu – Photos G+ Menu – Photos
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So Google is duplicating its menu system across its “common” menu system and in G+  vertical menu.  I would expect to see convergence in this area.

I don’t like having to switch tabs to use these other Google services or that clicking on links would open in new tabs.

This is what Facebook gets right – all their services happen in a single browser tab.  Whether it is messages, notifications, other services all operate within a single browser tab.

I hope & think Google will come around to this way of delivering its services too.

What do you think?

Do you prefer multiple tabs or single tab for multiple services?

Would seeing Gmail messages appearing inside G+ appeal to you?

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More thoughts on the user experience in G+

Having been in G+ for a short while now, and joined in with a lot of folks on the G+ field trial, kicking the tyres and joining in on some of the various discussions about it.  I wanted to put down some more of mine own thoughts about this interesting platform.

For the uninitiated & curious this is a quick introductory video:

credits: Google

 

The obvious thing that most people notice is there space and cleanliness of the Google UX, which has sprung from this initiative of Google (Evolving the Google design and experience).  Of which I am a fan, as I mentioned in a previous blog post about G+.

Many observers have pointed out that the G+ UI is very similar in layout to Facebook, by using a central column of activity with adjacent switches and controls to help navigate the UI. I presume research on user interface design, indicates that best practise for an information flow format would be a central column feature with blank margins or edges to the browser window to draw in the eye to the core content.  Though in my mind it does leave a lot of unused space available in the browser, which could be exploited – perhaps for not for primary content but as supplementary content or additional control features.

However, in spite of this good stuff, I see the following limitations with the current (mid – July 2011) UX of G+ which inhibit my full participation in this platform.

You can only view one stream of activity at a time (a particular circle or the whole stream):

 

  • Compare that to most Twitter clients (Tweetdeck, Seesmic etc.) where there is a lot of flexibility in the number of columns on view combined with the Twitter list feature is a very powerful mechanism for tracking multiple activity streams simultaneously.
  • I am not sure the web UX of G+ will develop a multi-stream UX soon (I may be wrong).  Though I expect on the release of the API – 3rd party clients will provide this feature pretty rapidly.
  • Perhaps Google will allow users to create additional tabs|spots for favourite streams here would be a possible solution?

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(For example, I already use the Google+Tweet integrated extension – so it can be done)

Circles are missing activity notification features:

 

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  • Currently UI indicates the displayed stream by highlighting it in a red font.  But it provides no information about the status of activity in other circles|streams you may be interested in, therefore your decisions on where to view next are more pot-luck than driven by useful information.  This could be fixed by providing..
    • An unread count for each circle (though will that make it feel like email all over again?)
    • Give new post indicators (e.g. change of font colour of updated circles, or place updated circles at the top of circles list, blinking circle icon etc.)
    • Indication of new posts in a stream by a different background fill colour, like unread marks, but that fade on scroll or mouse hover.
  • Obviously, this is more applicable when viewing a particular circle stream, rather than your whole activity stream, but knowing what circles are active or dormant should be indicated visibly to assist your management of the G+  service.
G+ needs more than just Circles (in their current form):

 

  • Circles are great, they help out a lot.  They help channel, tailor and focus the conversation to an audience that grasps the tacit context and content around the information shared.  Also these are the early days of G+ – so we need to give Google a fair crack of the whip and respond to feedback etc.
  • However, my gripe is this. Circles provide a method to categorise or filter people and how you share with them, but not necessarily where content should be shared.  Or actually where to find that content again…
    • I can’t search for posts or comments from inside G+ (I know there’s Chrome browser search work around), but it’s not brilliant.
    • Utilisation of topic (hash) tags are missing.
    • All circles are private, there are no public equivalents.
  • I feel this leads to a random spray (scatter gun) of information and knowledge across G+ which users find hard to grasp and navigate.  Which is why I think we’re all mostly talking about G+, rather than other things. see this example
  • I’m sure Google will be working on this, but I feel there needs to be either an implementation of public circles or topic specific pages|groups.
  • Then not only does the individual user have the ability to post content in context or to the right audience, but community|shared knowledge actually has a conceptual container & residency.  Therefore if you’re interested in “X” you join the page|group about X, and as a consequence find the associated experts, latest information, debate etc. Then you can create your own related circle to be your receiving filter for that information stream.
  • To me it just seems to be something missing in G+.  Each one of us is creating our own circles of content consumers and creators, with very little reference apart from our own social graph.  Which seems fine for private or intimate level of social kinship. But at a community sharing level I think there needs to be a higher level of visibility on the nature of content shared or purpose for sharing. To build and cement connections in that community, as well to motivate, inspire and drive it forward.  Do you disagree?  Do you think G+ can seed such strong communities without that conceptual framework?

I hope Google does address some of these issues soon, as I feel a little reticent to fully engage in the platform, as at some level I’m not quite comfortable with this scatter gun approach to content sharing. I think this is partly because of the richness of the conversation factor within G+, it seems  that as a platform more deserving of quality discourse and sharing, so it feels important to do that in the place of most social value – and I can’t tell where that is in G+.

I feel it is more deserving than Twitter, because of fully developed conversation model (chronicled comments and stream),  and the removal of the character limit on the individual post or share.  And also more deserving than Facebook, because at the moment it remains free of commercial interference … whether that will continue?  That is probably unlikely as Google will need to monetise the platform at some point, and that’s bound to mean more than just Adsense links.

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My first thoughts on Google+

So I go where many of the leading technorati (an example list) have already gone…  played about Google +, drawn their conclusions & evaluations, then posted and shared their thoughts with many peers and watchers (at least the vocal ones).

So I won’t past comment on Google +’s evolutionary history or how it compares against the usual suspects.  If you need that information please visit your preferred search engine.

What excites and interests me about Google +   is the slickness of integration with basic and existing services that Google has delivered with this primary iteration of the service through general UI revisionGmail, Google Chat, Photos etc. are all plumbed in well (perhaps not exactly as people wish, but that’s why the feedback button is there).

They’ve combined these key services and nicely presented them in the revised Google UI – which provides sensible toolbar menu and workspace with simple clean lines and uncluttered space in the browser.  The top right-hand side being particularly useful with the constant presence of the notifications and share menu, along with the context|service sensitive help and setting options.  All this I’ve easily get used and start taking for granted immediately.

So I’ve realised that Google + is almost the sort of connected set of services and social connections where I could use and work everyday.   Until now, I’ve not had a visualisation of a connected web worker interface and services that flow and connect together so well as Google +.  Perhaps that means I’ve missed something somewhere, or only had fleeting interactions with such a platform available elsewhere?

So why do I think it’s particularly suited for supporting the workplace?

These are my call-out features that make it a potentially great Enterprise collaboration platform:-

  • Google chat conversations that remain active and sync’d no matter which Google service tab you have have active, keeping continuity of contact and context.
  • Google +’s Hangouts (video conferencing) present a step change for multi participant video chat services, with intuitive launch and privacy controls.  This will be an excellent service for remote teams.
  • Google +’s profiles are well done, with key controls and updates, to help viewers choose how they wish to interact with that person.  It’s certainly made me think Google account profiles, are an important digital business card as well as sign post to the rest of your digital identity.
  • Google +’s sharing and circles, are there to help drive adhoc collaboration and project activities forward. Helping people target conversations and activities to relevant individuals and groups. Combined with the notification & filter features, your attention handling overhead is reduced. So you can focus on updates when they come in, but otherwise dedicate your focus elsewhere and let things move on in the background.
  • Google has done a good job of the activity stream implementation so far, delivering different filters/views on your stream via the circles categorisation.  Activity streams are more effective than an email inbox in helping an individual track a large flow of data in a loosely coupled manner, as well providing a more flexible engagement and participation model.
  • Gmail and Mobile integration (Huddles – group texts) (primarily Android currently), are already well done and obviously be subject to further improvements in future iterations. It’s also all browser based so the form factor, OS or the resources of the end-point device are not so much a limitation of the service but help to extend it’s reach and serve mobile users better.

It’s not complete by any means so there’s a couple of key things to come that Enterprise will be interested in:-

  • Google Apps, the current Google Enterprise services, look a great prospect for integration with Google +.  It will interesting to watch how that implementation takes shape, and the security and identity features they put into manage privacy, identity and content publication needs.  They’re already done some implementation of dual accounts in the Google+ toolbar, and you can switch IDs see here: account switching
  • Google +  API, another great prospect to integrate both consumer services and enterprise grade application services.

So I’m going to be interested to see how Google + evolves, there’s certainly being no lack of expertise and feedback for Google to exploit to help it change Google +  in the right manner.  It’s certainly good to have a strong disruptive influence in the social networking market place.

For reference this GigaOM post is also a great summary of the potential of Google + as enterprise workplace.

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