Google’s Design-Driven Enthusiasm

In regards to the irrational exuberance often associated with Google’s offerings, Techcrunch’s Michael Arrington asks: What drives this kind of blind enthusiasm?
Anyone who follows basement.org knows I’m not a Google fanboy. But sometimes you just have to call a spade a spade: Google has done an outstanding job of building a near rabid brand loyalty. By saying less (they have virtually no traditional advertising campaigns) and by masking some relatively impressive technical feats with a simple, dumbed-down design, they’ve created a mystique around their brand.
Stepping back, Google’s name is synonymous with searching on the Web, but its goodwill is also a product of their commitment to simplicity. Google, like Apple, is a great case study in the importance of delivering technology in the context of a simple, intuitive experience. They are an experience design success story.
I would respond to Arrington’s rant with the following question: why was it such a big deal when the iPod was released? Portable digital music players had been around for years. It was a big deal because it was better-designed. And that difference is not trivial. That’s not to say that Google Spreadsheet or whatever else Google puts out will be better. It’s just that, right now, Google has earned the benefit of the doubt. Gmail and their core search products have set the tone.
Now is this free ticket that Google’s been handed an Unlimited Ride? I seriously doubt it. You still have to bring real, differentiating value to get noticed. Had Google Spreadsheet been their next offering after search, few would doubt that it’s reception would’ve been huge. After 20 or so offerings, not so huge.
Speaking more broadly, the loyalty and enthusiasm Google is capable of conjuring speaks to the value of delivering a good product wrapped in a compelling end-user experience.

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