Monday, May 05, 2003

Good Experience Live XIV

Marissa Mayer: Google Doodles

Marissa Mayer is the director of consumer products and a product manager for Google. A Google employee since 1999, Bayer is former technical lead for the user interface team. Here is a rough transcript of her talk at Good Experience Live:

How many people here have used Google? That question always gets some chuckles. I'm going to focus on the UI philosophies and processes within Google.

Google's mission is to organize the world's information so it's universally accessible and useful. That's very broad. And it has nothing to do with Web searches. But the Web has changed the paradigm of research. More than the Web search, Googlers are interested in doing things that matter.

You can't build a search engine unless you have too much data. You need to build something that's fundamentally useful to people and then build usability on top of that. If all you have is usability, you don't have much.

Let's look at usability. Let's look at Google's big blank home page. If you ask Sergey what were you trying to say with the big blank home page, he'd say, "We didn't have a Webmaster, and I don't do HTML." Our characteristic look was a happy accident.

One thing we do at Google to understand what's happening is user studies. At our very first one, there were four of us on the UI time. None of us had ever done a user study. We found all sorts of fundamental problems. What did we find? Users have a razor focus on results. They have the uncanny ability to cut off the rest of the site. Also, they couldn't find Helo. We also had confusing blurts of engineering speak scattered around the site.

This also served as our first focus group. We got all sorts of user reactions. People didn't get the blank home page at all. Google's come a long way since then, and a streamlined Web page seems to work well.

You need to eat your own dog food. Everyone Google hires is a Google user. We use it all the time. In February 2000, we went on a ski trip, and Sergey said the day would be our greatest test. We thought he meant a bunch of nerds hitting the slopes, but he meant that we needed to see how much of our traffic was self-generated.

Iterations are also important. Try, try again. We tested several versions of Google News. 64 iterations later, we settled on the Google News that you see on our site.

The last thing I want to talk about is the importance of humor. How many of you have seen the Google logo change? It's a glimpse at who's behind this thing. Don't be afraid to be human. We call these Google Doodles. We get huge amounts of user feedback. We've been Slashdotted. Now we have a very talented graphic designer who does all of our logos. You'd be amazed how offended Australians get when you equate the holidays with ice and snow. We've also branched out into more cultural holidays.

One of my contributions to this has been some of the more cultural logos. We've done some artists, the anniversary of the Nobel Prize. And we did DNA. But my favorite logo of all time is the Dali logo that we did last May. The logo even inspired a book store manager to organize one of the best Dali book displays I've ever seen.

No comments: