Several folks who have the opportunity to work with me, know that I advocate for the end-user in nearly everything. One topic I tend to drive hard into is accessibility of useful features within products and services. That is, the struggle between Web properties which are “too busy” or “too light” for uninitiated users. In this entry, I’ll discuss Google’s presentation of their features for their prospective users.
Did you know Google has over 39 services available for users? These services are awesome and are dying for you to use them and hopefully make them become mainstream like Web search. All but seven of these features are prominently displayed on the Google home page.
When determining if a product will be displayed to all users on the main page, a battle takes place. The battle between product managers and program managers is as elementary as, “How do I get my product to the people?”
Oh, and just for reference —
Product Managers are people who are responsible for individual products or services. A product in this context would be “Google Reader.”
Program Managers are people who are responsible for the programming, editorial focus and placement of products on big Web sites. They call the shots almost all the time. Programming in this context is like TV Guide programming, with bars and schedules for rotating content.
This is a tough decision for any program manager to make and product managers to accept when the response is “No, it doesn’t go on the main page,” as they are considering the end-user experience that will be affected. On one hand, they don’t want to alienate users and on the other side, they want to provide them with as many opportunities to discover your product to the fullest.
I’d like to pull in the example of the Google Homepage, along the top:
I have a question for usability experts/specialists out there:
Is it worth burying features to maintain simplicity? (Even if it inhibits growth of the brand itself?)
Personally, I realize there is a balance that needs to be kept in mind. However, I think it would be a good idea for Google to rotate features along the top and let me “pin” items up there. As far as I know, this can’t be done.
AOL did nail one thing right in their software — all their users knew about the service’s e-mail, chat rooms, finance, news and favorites all in one experience without much hassle. I’ll go out and wager about 97% of Google users are only aware of two features of Google (Web and Image search). That’s the difference in usability.
What do you think: How should large companies inform you about new features on their service?
[Image credit: basbakker1983]