They say that, to be a great business, you should always leave your customer or user wondering what you’re going to do next.
I’d mostly buy into that, unless what you do next makes you appear to be both a wanky company as well as a cool one. Enter Google and their apparent goal to piss off and enthrall in equal measure.
For a company whose motto is “Don’t be evil”, it makes it doubly frustrating when they go against that and force your hand into doing exactly what they say. Or else.
The frustration is only compounded further, because then they come up with something so cool you love them all over again. Before we look at that, though, let’s start with the bad.
Google+ – You’re Stuck With It, Amigo
Over the weekend, I decided to stop using Google+. I’ve never really been enamoured with the service, truth be told, and I just found it to be another place that sucked my time up.
Not only that, but the amount of fanboy bias on there really got grating - it became worse than the Sega vs. Nintendo debates back in the 80′s. I almost wanted to ask some users if they wanted tissues and a dark room…
So, having made the decision to not use Google+ anymore, I went to my Android to delete the G+ app, since it’s the second-biggest battery suck on my phone. Except I couldn’t delete it – because Google won’t let you.
Instead, the very best I could do was disable it.
The problem was, it then affected other Google apps on my phone because of Google’s “You WILL be signed up as a G+ user on every Google platform you use, and counted as an active one at that, because we want to pretend we have more numbers than we do.”
The biggest casualty was the Gallery app, which refused to load at all. Enabling the Google+ app allowed Gallery to work again; disabling screwed up Gallery again. Which, considering one of the selling points of Android is easy sharing of your pictures across social networks, seems stupid on so many levels.
Google has already been criticized for its all-or-nothing mindset when it comes to tying you into their network of apps, with the only way to escape being the deletion of your complete Google account. Easier said than done, which Google knows and is playing to.
So, even though I pay for my phone and pay for its services, I can’t choose which apps I want to run (or not), because some of my other apps will be messed up if I dare turn off those from Google.
Thanks guys, awesome way to treat your customers.
Who Do You Love? Google, Sometimes
The ironic part of the negative experience highlighted above is that, often, Google gets it right in so many ways when it comes to the user experience.
A prime example is the What Do You Love? project.
Conceived by the creative minds over at Big Spaceship, What Do You Love? is a very cool content identification and curation experience, based on topics or keywords chosen by you.
Just like the main search page for Google, What Do You Love? is clean and simple, and looks very similar to the search landing page itself with some text and a big search bar.
The fun happens when you type in the keyword, brand or person you’re looking for.
Instead of the normal search results, you get tabbed results for pretty much everything under the sun on baked beans:
- 3D exploration
- Popularity of baked beans on the web
- Google Maps of nearby baked beans (seriously!)
- and much, much more.
It’s quite possibly one of the coolest concepts I’ve seen, and makes search incredibly fun. What it also does, though, is allow you to set up a research station and immediately get an overview of something you’re interested in.
While the What Do You Love? project is primarily a fun and cool way to bring a bunch of results together under one roof, the potential is much more.
Imagine using it to monitor trends, see visual representations of your brand or business, or simply understand how something works by seeing it in 3D. You can then take that information and plan a strategy around the results, or even just create magic of your own based on the wealth of information available to you.
The story behind What Do You Love? is pretty cool too.
Developed outside Google (though fully endorsed by Larry Page and Eric Schmidt), Big Spaceship was allowed to rip apart the Google Apps API to come up with the WDYL? concept and execution, without any inside interference from the Big G.
The Less You Control, The More We Respond
This is where Google frustrates so much. On the one hand, they’re trying to make you a prisoner of their network by baking their products into each other so much, one won’t work without the other.
On the other hand, you have something so amazingly cool like What Do You Love? that gives you everything you need from Google’s toolset, but doesn’t force you to use them if you don’t want to. And yet, by allowing this open path, you actually use something like WDYL? more than any other search option.
Notice the irony, Google?
I shouldn’t have to have Google+ active if I want to use my Android phone. I shouldn’t have to be an active user of Google+ if I just want to use Gmail, or share a video on YouTube.
Big Spaceship show you why the less control you place, the more a user will respond. The more response, the more use of a product – seems simple enough.
Would it really hurt to have this approach across your other platforms?