What’s better than being part of the Old Boy’s Club? Being part of the New Tech club! I got an invite to Google+ a few hours after they were launched, courtesy of a good friend at the Googleplex. I just spent 15 minutes playing around with the interface, and here are some quick notes: (there’s a good overview of Google+ at TechCrunch and NYTimes )
Clean but empty.
The UI is pretty clean and straightforward. Much better than Buzz and wayyyy better than Wave. It’s obvious what I want to do and why I’d want to do it. The problem? There’s no one else there. It kind of feels like you showed up to a hip, new club an hour before they opened. The visual design is extremely clean, but muted- I’m guessing throw the focus on the content.
Circles shows everything that’s wrong with Facebook, but isn’t a panacea (yet)
Circles is definitely awesome. There is no concept of “Friends” just people you organize into various social cliques. The UI is very slick- nice animations and a great example of a modern drag’n’drop interface. I suspect going back to Facebook now I’m going to have a nagging feeling of “but why I can’t share this with just some people instead of everyone?” That backlash user experience could be what pushes people towards Google+ and away from Facebook. But really, if Facebook Friends is the Social Web 1.0, Google+’s Circle’s is the Web 2.0
But it’s not perfect. In just a few minutes, I found that I kept wishing I could add people to more than one circle at once, e.g., College and Living Group. Organizing, even when flashy, is a pain in the ass. It’d be great if I could have friends suggest Circles to me that I could then cherry pick and edit.
Speaking of people in Circles, apparently ~6-10 people is what Circles is intended for, and the UI certainly reflects it. I can see how this works well for Family and BFF, but the interface quickly breaks down after adding ~10 people.
I know what I am, but what are you?
Google’s clearly thought hard about privacy and Circles when you’re creating content (a new post, uploading photos, etc). That interface is slick, and generally follows Mac’s improved Text Field + Tags UI idea. However, it’s a little less clear when you’re responding to content someone else has posted- is it just to that person? their circle? who’s in that circle?… What if my boss is in the “Friends” circle of someone else? Does he see what I write back to my friend’s posts? There’s a lot of ambiguity in the privacy.
What I see on the Google+ homepage:
What’s actually going on:
Some of the UI is seamless- Circles and Photos, for example. However, Hangouts and Spark feel like they were separate projects bolted onto Google+ after the fact. This isn’t bad, but it does give an inconsistent UX where you’re wondering if there are hidden doors to Narnia in Google+ that will open up some whole new world.
Google’s learned a lot about building a social UI, but the hard part about a social interface isn’t making buttons prominent and an easy to use UI, it’s in the experience of interacting with others. Right now, that interaction barely exists. So why we can see what Google has done, it’s like walking in on a restaurant’s first day. Sure it looks nice, the menu sounds good. But will the food be tasty? Will the servers pay attention to me? Will my friends come there?