Tech Life Interaction designers = good

Can Google UI?

I’m fond of my Gmail account.

I’ve got enough email accounts out there that pointing all of them at a single account is a time saver. Combined with the Google blazin’ fast search, I feel like I’ve got a usable meta-mail account.

And that’s about it.

The folders, filters, labels… I know all that stuff is there, but the fast search makes the necessity of organizing your mail a second order task. The Google lesson is: Just search doofus.

What is unique about Gmail is that it’s Google’s apparent first foray into a sophisticated web application. There’s a user interaction more complicated than “Type something — Hit Enter”… and that’s what my question is: “Is Google any good at user interaction design?”

I’m an engineering manager which means I’m often deluded into believing I know what I’m talking about when it comes to user interaction. I don’t. Engineers design UI based on how they see the code working in their head and this had lead to years of confused end users wondering, “What the hell were they thinking?”

What we were thinking the code and the interaction experience is somehow related and it’s not. Yes, the code does create the application, but how that application is used by folks who actually need the product to work is not something most engineers are equipped to understand.

I like interaction designers.

They piss me off.

They bring a radically different perspective to the design table and, if they’re good, they’re not going to be swayed by know-it-all-engineers who blindly say, “Well, that’s just the way it works”.

The question is, “Does Google have good UI?”

I can’t tell.

7 Responses

  1. I think you can answer that question yourself. Does Google’s UI make doing what you need to do with the application easy? Do you like looking at it?

    If you were disabled, would it still be useful?

    I don’t see what an ‘expert’ in the field can really say beyond that. If it works, don’t fix it.

  2. Gmail is seriously the nicest webmail I’ve ever used, based on the UI alone. Nuts to the 1GB of storage, with gmail I actually -like- using webmail for once.

    Orkut on the other hand, woah. Worst website UI ever.

  3. I know what the answer is for myself, but, as I said, I’m an engineer, not an interaction designer. What I’m hoping is that someone who is actually trained in interaction design weighs in with an educated opinion.

  4. Have any spare invites? 😀

  5. instink 12 years ago

    There are tons on ebay – just search for gmail and you’ll find heaps. I know it sounds stupid, paying for an invite, but its only a few bucks. I only paid $5 AU for mine which is about $3 US

  6. I do agree that gmail shows that google has put brains into the user interface – it is by the way one cool dhtml-application (when I thought that dhtml is dead).

    they have put a lot of effort in transforming webmail into some-kind of email-client, you have to learn some ways of using it (it’s not “folders” it’s “labels”), but learning is not really hard.

    some things are largely improved compared e.g. to outlook (think of the auto-complete of adresses).

    is it allowed to say: gmail is client software that comes from a server?

  7. I always think that a good user interface is an interface that try to make the user dev. an habit. I always use the holy grail of UI design Apple as a comparaison, the ways you use iTunes is the same ways your used it since the first 5 minutes you played with it, in that 5 minutes you have dev. an habit that is ingrained in your brain. The same way I can give my grandma an iPod and she’ll figure out how to use it, I think that I can show a screen of gmail and everyone should be able to dev. an habit with it. So yeah I think they nailed it, damn I hate software that make it a point to make me go out of my way to use it.