–Steve Tengler is Altia’s User Experience Director. This post is part two of a series where he reviews Google’s new social network, “Google Plus”. Click here for Part 1.—
This feature is associated with Circles. Though not touted as highly by either the reviewers or Google+, in my expert-yet-humble opinion, this may be the best usability improvement amongst the new features. Streams allows you to use your pre-defined circles to separate the wheat from the chaff (*a metaphor I rarely use since I’m allergic to wheat J) – quickly filtering posts for only one Circle. For instance, you have less than a minute between activities and wish to quickly read any updates from your family. Boom! You click on one circle and you’re seeing only familial info.
This is also a usability improvement over Facebook – and sheer business genius since Google took a successful area of their business and turned it into a usability improvement feature. Sparks is essentially a renaming of Google News, which allows you to instantly post and comment about an article. For example, if I searched on the NFL this week, I could immediately post one of the articles below and click the “Share” hyperlink. Before you know it, that article would be posted with my associated thought (e.g. “Wow, after a year of bickering, they’ve finally figured out how to share $9B!”). Yes, approximately 51% of website home pages now have Facebook or Twitter links (per BrightEdge, a company that conducted a study of the top 10,000 websites in the world). However, to share stories from the other 49% of websites, I must copy and paste the URL into Facebook, which is certainly more arduous. The first NFL article I clicked on – a blurb from the Boston Herald – did not have a Facebook link and, therefore, would’ve required extra effort for me to share.
This feature intrigued me the most since the thought of spontaneous, multi-person video-chat was unique, and could possibly compete with not just Facebook but also the online meeting companies (e.g. see article entitled “Why Google+ Won’t Hurt Facebook, but Skype Will Hate It”). Although Skype’s mediocre usability might be the content of a future blog, Google+ Hangouts left me rudderless in the Sea of Unfulfilled Anticipation unlike anything I’ve experienced since Star Wars Episode #1.
To begin our saga, let’s start with my attempt at installing the required plug-in. Google+ proclaimed on one window that the installation succeeded and then kept redirecting me back to the installation page. I danced this jig for several songs, trying this and that to get it to work. Finally, I tried the Help features associated with installing the plug-in, and they told me to make sure I’m NOT using Internet Explorer 64-bit or Safari 64-bit, but didn’t explain how to find that information or what to use instead (let alone a hyperlink to download Chrome, which should’ve been a slam-dunk for them!). Since they’ve only Beta-tested with technophiles, they probably haven’t realized the majority of the world wouldn’t know where to find that information. Even though I knew I was using Explorer’s 64-bit version, I decided for fun to investigate in the same fashion that marginal Internet users might uncover the truth – via the “About Internet Explorer” under the browser’s Help button. Several steps beyond what a frustrated user would’ve considered the Dead End, the About Internet Explorer window said it had 256-bit Cypher Strength. Hmmm, 256-bit isn’t 64-bit, so I’m OK right? Granted, that’s Microsoft’s usability, but Google has provided mediocre instructions to an unclear end. Bad experience!
…TO BE CONTINUED….