I’m a very visual person. I often have trouble remembering someone’s name but I almost never forget a face. I’m one of those people who judge your product or service by your website. If websites are like our digital billboard and our front-page representing our product, service, company, etc…then you need to get it right landing on it.
So I’m not going to think you’ve spent much attention on the details on your product or service if the front page to your representation looks like the first page on the internet from the 80’s. If it’s impossible to make sense of your content, then I’m going to think your product is not going to make sense to me either. I’m quick to dismiss and I’ll admit this is not always a best practice, but I’ve often been right on my assumptions here.
In my opinion, Google+ was one of the better designed social networks. Here’s how I come up with that rationale.
The Column Layout With Massive Margins
Let’s take a look at a Twitter feed. Keep in mind, I’m on a Google Pixelbook so if you look at this on an external monitor or any screen bigger than this, the margins on the right only get bigger.
It’s a waste of space. All I really care about is the column in the middle. I have no idea what that crap is on the right…I never look at it. And I don’t care what’s trending on the left either.
Wash, rinse, repeat, it’s the same thing on LinkedIn. Now, I don’t really consider LinkedIn to be in the same category as other social networks…it’s trying to remain professional and as long as people on it keep their foodie photos and other crap off of it, it can remain professional. But still, would you put together a report or presentation that wastes this much space in the margins? Probably not. While I understand these designs are meant for mobile, there is a better way, and we see it in Google+. I am not on Facebook, but do know that they follow the exact same design logic here as LinkedIn and Twitter.
The Card Layout…My Favorite.
I love it…cards with details, previews nicely, and segregates my interests in cards very nicely. If you take the browser and grab the side of it and slide it smaller, the content scales very nicely. Look at it on a larger screen, and it will scale to 4 or 5 columns. I must admit, if you click on a card to expand it alone, you go to a single column on a page with massive margin space, but I’ve almost never done that because of the way it’s designed here. From a mobile app perspective, if it wasn’t for the mobile web browser URL bar, you could not distinguish between the mobile web and native app versions of Google+.
OK…so the design was better than most but it still never took off as a social network of choice.
Google+ came at a time that was at a peak for Facebook, Twitter, and even others. Google+ launched in June of 2011…about one year before Facebook would IPO and about two years before Twitter did the same. In addition, the world was drowning in options to connect with each other. LinkedIn was for professional. Facebook was for friends, family, some pages, etc. and Twitter was for news, short blasts, and even finding content to follow. This does not include many others such as MySpace which was still around I think.
Google also had a bit of a shady way of acquiring early numbers. If you had a Gmail account, then you had a “Google” account. So they basically gave you a Google+ profile as part of your “Google account”. The problem with this is people don’t like things being spun up for them. To this day, many still have this rogue Google+ account and either is not aware or simply don’t care and ignore it. Google did eventually change this to where you had to elect to go in and “create” a Google+ profile from your Google account.
But design alone can not bring users. At a time when the world-wide-web was overwhelming, Google+ became just another thing you were going to have to take the time to learn. A utilitarian mindest kicked in for most people. If I already have Facebook, Twitter, blah, blah, what do I need Google+ for? The fact is, they were all right to think this way. Google+ was late to the game and the “newness” of Facebook and others had not worn off yet…and Google+ didn’t even have annoying ads! Of course, neither did Twitter until they went public and needed a revenue stream, but nonetheless.
Features came and went in Google+. Events was great, but then I had the calendar so did I really need events? Hangouts was a thing back then, so was I supposed to message someone through Hangouts, through Google+ and then potentially click into a video call from there…? These are examples of things that were never explained. Communities and Collections were added and have stuck around. Collections is like your Pinterest board. A collection of your interests from around the web. Communities are…well…just that, communities. My entire family, (parents and sibling and family) all went to Disney one year. I fired up a Google+ Community for this and we kept up with each other as we split up at times, (different age kids, interests, etc). When it was done, it was always there to reflect back on. I took all the photo’s from everyone, threw them into a Google Photos album, and done. Easy peezy.
…but Google+ is only dead for consumers…for now.
For now, it seems as the plan is to only sunset Google+ for consumers. Much like many of their products and services, I have found that Google’s technology is far better when it’s paid for through a G Suite subscription. Google+ makes a great intranet within a company.
The various communities can be for different divisions or teams of the organization. It adds a social flair to your culture all while isolating it to your company domain. It’s great for sharing company news and happenings. In light of the newly released info on security, and Google’s decisions to shut down Google+, they’ve already added to new features to the business side around account permissions and communities.
Why Google doesn’t just own up to the mistake, (they already fixed it back when they found it), and let Google+ ride…I don’t know. While it never took off as a leading social network, it still has millions of active users, vibrant and popular communities, and some die-hard fans who are now looking to where they’re going to go next as most seem to shun the likes of Facebook. I also think it is one of the better-designed platforms out there. Other developers of other platforms could really take note of Google’s design here. Simplistic yet super functional.
It will be interesting to see how it grows on the business side.