You know that feeling you get when you buy your first Mac? You turn it on and can actually start using it. There isn’t a world of preloaded garbage that you need to sort through before you can actually start using it. You can just dive in and go. You realize, this is just so easy to use! “Wow!” you say. “Wow! I cannot believe I wasted all those years on that windows based machine”! Apple’s team of UI designers really knows their stuff. Having an interface that is very intuitive, can make all the difference in the world.
I started using google+ last week thanks to an invite from Nick Cicero, and I got that feeling. I kept looking for the garbage component, and I couldn’t find it. Where are all the advertisers pushing their products?! Where are the ads with a picture of a guy surfing, with a headline that reads “Top things to do in Syracuse”? Have you ever been to Syracuse?! There is no surfing in Syracuse, so why is there an AD on facebook suggesting there is? Not only were there no advertisements, the user interface is just so squeaky clean! The use of color is minimal, but is consistent across pages. Colors in google+ carry specific definitions that are easy to understand. Blue, highlights any type of link that would take you away from the page you are on, and red, calls out an area you are in or a button that may change something on your current page.
Circles/Sparks/Draggin’ an Droppin’
Google+ introduces ‘circles’ and ‘sparks’, and have been designed with the user in mind. Circles, or your friend lists, are very intuitive to use. It has a drag and drop function, so you can drag and drop friends from one circle to another. This functionality also exists in the photo uploader. Just drag a photo from your desktop and drop it into the uploader. Managing your friend lists, or groups can get very tedious. Circles eliminates that. Also, on your circles page when you hover over a friend or potential stalker, the circle(s) in which that person is filed will glow. Little flavor like that is all through G+. You may also double click the friend’s icon to go directly to that friend’s page.
Sparks is essentially interests. For instance, search for a spark like ‘graffiti’, G+ will then populate with articles that are all associated with ‘graffiti’. From here you can share a story with your circles. I imagine that the more people share one article, the higher it will be put into a spark list. Could this be used to potentially create a world of new journalists based on +1′s or sharing?
As I said before, G+ has little flavor through out the UI. Google has always had a very simplistic approach to the design of their sites. As you navigate G+, you will see hints of life. When you add a person to a circle, it spins and a tiny +1 bubble floats away. When you delete a friend a -1 bubble floats away, or delete a circle completely and see what happens. There are little things like this all over the site and new for Google. It makes the whole experience much friendlier.
The use of the Google Bar
The Google bar stays with you across Google pages, and you can post to your Google+ account from any page via the bar. This bar also displays notifications through a drop down window. Each notification you get has a different icon to let you know what kind of notification you have. A small bullet list is a post notification and a green circle is a notification that someone has added you to a circle in their google plus world. The bar is grey, it stands out against Google’s dominating white. I think having this functionality atop all pages within the google grid is a great feature. I would like to see the ‘sign in’ function be displayed in a drop down functionality rather than it taking you to a new sign in page.
I have not used this feature yet, but essentially it seems like if you wanted to get a group video chat, or just text chat going, you can do so via hangouts. If you want to learn more about the hangout feature you can read some facts here.
There are a few things that I really like about the G+ photo section. The way it displays photos from your circles is really well done, not to mention it how it displays your photos in your albums. The photos that are displayed from your circles come together in a giant page of inspiration, life and emotion. Nice work Google.
The way it displays photos in your albums is great as well. When you hover over your albums multiple pictures fan out, this is another little nugget of animation within G+. Then you click into an album and it gives you your album cover huge with the other photos smaller. I’m not sure if it is my monitor or google, but the imagery seems to come in very crisp and clear.
If you click on an image from one of your circles or from your own album, you get a modal screen with the comment pane on the right hand side. Very nice design and the photos look nice against a dark background. As I previously stated, adding pictures is a snap with the drag and drop feature. If you want to have a little fun you can put multiple photos in your profile album, then when someone is on your page they can click your profile pic and it will change your picture per click. Animation sequence anyone?
Google has announced that it will be creating a whole different Google+ for businesses. You can read/watch more about that here in an article by Christian Oestlien. I am excited to see how Google incorporates this into Google+.
In my opinion, overall Google+ is superior to Facebook on UI and UX alone. I am stoked to see where this is headed.
Check out my G+ page at gplus.to/tommylincoln