It’s not often that I get to be one of the “cool kids,” but I did receive an early invitation to try Google+ before it was available to the general public. Having time to check out Google+ before it was flooded with a stream of people and information gave me a chance to look holistically at the entire user experience, often acronymed as “UX.”
It’s not so much about Facebook bashing, although there has indeed been a lot of that going on. Facebook can be problematic when posting status updates across varied sets of friends. In Facebook, it can be difficult to understand how to organize friends into groups or basic categories of friends, family and colleagues. What is different about Google+ is that the whole idea is an ingenious reply to the various needs and wants of people interacting in social networks. This is one of the basic tenets of user experience: meeting the needs of the users. The “experience” of the user was clearly top of mind when these specific features were created. Here is a quick highlight of just a few aspects of the Google+ user experience or UX appearance of this social network. (See Jennie Malone’s post: Introducing Google+ )
How to Selectively Share with Your Social Networks
I often want to share information with my colleagues at work, but not my friends from college. Or something of interest from my Twitter account will make my best friend laugh, but I don’t necessarily want people at work to see it. Privacy controls are important in social networks. The key to this in Google+ is Circles. UX nicety #1 is the ability to share selectively.
You can select exactly with “whom” you want to share. All. Or some. Once you’ve created a Circle, it’s easy to choose just the right Circle to appropriately share your video, photo or comment.
Google+ Makes It Simple to Change Groups With Whom You Want to Share
Now you might get the basic idea of Circles and how you share selectively. Beyond that, Google+ is just as clever in the flexibility of those very same sharing groups. It’s a simple matter to create a new group for “Daily Circle” or “XYZ Project.” Rearranging is easy; just drag and drop your connection into a new Circle. Move people to and from Circles – they’ll never know.
Perhaps I’ve discovered this amazing blog and it’s something I want to share, but not with all my Google+ contacts. I want to share with a specific group and also with a specific individual (not in a group) and, additionally, I want to send this blog to my sister, who’s not on Google+. That is all possible. Just start typing and auto-complete will help you determine the group, person or email address. Google+ offers open and transparent security so you can painlessly set your level of sharing. UX nicety #2 is the ability to change your mind.
Google+ Nicely Dovetails with Other Google Products
If you use Google Docs or Calendar or Gmail, then you’ll appreciate how Google+ has been incorporated into the page layout and interface. It all fits together quite ingeniously. Note the new black bar listing all your services.
You can also get into Google+ from other Google services by using the “+<yourname>” that is listed first, so it’s a priority. It is a convenient way to quickly scan all the different parts of Google. UX nicety #3 is seamless integration.
Google+ users are two to three times more likely to share in specific Circles than in public. (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/googles-circle-logic-07212011.html) And yes, it’s true that as more friends, family and colleagues are added into your Circles, managing them can get tricky. But users are embracing and optimizing their Circles for productivity, filtering and privacy.
As The New York Times says: (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/14/technology/personaltech/google-gets-a-leg-up-on-facebook.html?_r=1) “You share each item with only the people who deserve to know. And simultaneously, you spare the masses from seeing news of no interest to them.”
Beyond Google+ Circles
Of course, there are many other delightful aspects you’ll find in Google+. The focus here, however, is on just a few of the social media usability improvements. As you use Google+, let me suggest that you slow down a bit and look around to see some of the other reasons this social network has grown so quickly. I strongly suggest that the environment itself is the fundamental principle for the easy and elegant refinements baked in to Google+.