An Inside Look to Google+
My Google+ Homepag
I was fortunate enough to receive an invite to Google+ today. There’s a lot of hype, so seek out other articles for well-documented accounts of Google+ if you want more background. Instead, I’ll be sharing images along with some of my initial impressions on how Google approaches usability and design.
The “homepage” mirrors Facebook in both design and function. Your profile image sits in the upper-left corner with content modules below. Centered is all stream activity, regardless of stream source (think news feed). To the right, friend-related modules prompt you to categorize your friends. It’s a clean presentation, though its emptiness provokes curiosity as to how Google may utilize the space in other ways. RSS Reader? Email? Yes, please.
The Google+ Photos page shows your friends’ profile pages by default. Clean and elegant–similar to a Google Image search. Not included are ways to sort photos: image size, tags, etc.
I’m not sure how I feel about how Google pulls in all of your photos. If you’ve been a Google user for a long time and have all sorts of albums uploaded on Blogger or Picasa–which I do–then those will be automatically uploaded. Google continues its tradition of gathering everything/everyone you have come in contact with and displays everything in front of you. Fortunately, it’s not all visible to your contacts, courtesy of customizable privacy settings.
Google+ Photo Screen
Clicking on a photo maximizes the window into a Facebook-esque screen. Comments appear naturally along the right and allow for numerous comments to be shown simultaneously. What is not shown above is the facial recognition Google has incorporated to help with tagging. This didn’t work on some other photos though.
Although this preliminary setup is pleasant and user-friendly, it’s lacking in navigation features that could help streamline the process. The lower right hand corner could help users navigate by person, album, tag, etc. It could even imitate Google Search
Google+ Profile Page
The profile page is reminiscent of the non-Google+ profile page. You can view all your posts, photos, and videos; you can also customize your privacy settings. There’s also an added ability to view your page as if you were someone else–anyone you choose.
Buzz, however, made me giggle.
Google Circles is easy-to-use and intuitive. You click on a contact and you drag it into the circle you desire. What is not so intuitive is contact management and circle management. After using Gmail for many years, I’ve accrued an excessive number of contacts, many with whom I do not keep in touch. An automatic archive feature–rule based like “haven’t contacted in the previous 1,2,3 years etc–would help simplify this somewhat cluttered view and suppress my OCD mania.
Circle-wise, although the creation and removal of circles includes some cool visual effects, having more than 10 will further clutter your page. If circles could nest inside one another — a list view may be the only feasible way thought — then contact management for overlapping friends may improve significantly.
Google+ Sparks leaves something to be desired. If you’ve used Google alerts to notify you for keyword-related updates, then you’ll be familiar with the “lazy” kind of updates seen above. It’s understandable that Google would push content to increase its paid search reach, but the above results don’t appear too relevant.
Google+ Hangouts is an exciting feature that few other instant messaging services offer at this level for free. While “hanging out,” you can also watch a few videos in-window with YouTube. That’s pretty amazing. It’s also a clever way to sneak in more ads.
When chatting with multiple people, I wonder if it’d be possible to message an individual rather than the whole group. That’s something that needs to be explored more.
In conclusion, my short time with Google+ has rekindled my relationship with the search giant. Its current services fit a gap left by Facebook and other chat/social network services, but it’s still supplemental at best. The addition of this social layer, however, will propel Google forward in what seems like a countless number of ways that will only be discovered with time.