How well, then, does Google measure up against its own UX design principles? We’ll first compare Google’s and Yahoo!’s top-tier services, search features, and finally, their respective search-engine marketing (SEM) strategies. The first step is to carry out a Google search and evaluate results against Google’s own yardstick. Then we’ll look at Yahoo! to determine their comparative Googley-ness.
If we score each of the ten principles on a one-to-ten scale, we’ll quickly have a simple, subjective scorecard. Okay… I’ll go first, and you can find my scores below in parentheses. But the more players, the better: please follow this format to make your own comments. If enough of you comments with scores of your own, we’ll total results from all entries.
Open Google.com first for a “classic” search. Then, if you like, go to iGoogle.com (which makes the search interface feel “home page”-ey) for lots of personalized search options. Ask yourself, honestly, is Google:
- (8) Focused on people’s daily lives—
their work and their dreams?
- (9) Making every millisecond count?
- (10) Truly powerfully simple?
- (9 and 3, respectively; average of 6) Engaging beginners/attracting experts?
- (7) Daringly innovative?
- (8) Designed for today’s world?
- (7—a very subjective 7) Planned for present-day and future business?
- (9 and 3, respectively; average of 6) Eye-enlightening without becoming mind-distracting?
- (8) Worthy of users’ trust?
- (6) Adding a human touch?
Total UX score: 75
Let’s break each assessment down a bit to justify, or just defend:
- For “classic” search, it now seems fair to say that by getting out of the way (including nothing that is not to do with the singular task of entering a search), Google is focusing on those millions of users and their efforts/desires. iGoogle.com is also extremely customizable, so ditto. Nice.
- They are the uber-server geeks (totally a compliment!), after all. So yes, they’re always finding room for improvement.
- Cannot deny them that.
- Too bad this is a two-parter: one is tops, the other not. Google doesn’t, in my opinion, attract experts. So the average of the two equals. . . average.
- Google was once daringly innovative. A pattern: Most stars, once successful, struggle to keep their edge and stay inspired/inspiring. No exception for Google.
- If the center of the world is Stanford U., or Mountain View, CA, USA—certainly yes. If that center shifts to Fortaleza, Brazil, or Bratislava, Slovakia, I’d think less so. I know Google takes pains to mitigate the Stanford-centricity, but it is certainly the dominant culture there, as demonstrated by hiring practices.
- Yes, to a degree.
- Re: avoiding distractive qualities, well. . . Google is an advertiser, primarily, so some of this seems a contradiction. On “delight”? Well, considering immediate visual sense, not much. And I have found the secret search sauce less than inspiring lately, and have noticed some questionable quality, too.
- Google has done no known evil yet. However, privacy concerns are valid, in my view, almost without qualification.
- How is this manifest? For information design and usability the effort put forth shows, even if it seems UX doesn’t get a first crack at design. I have run into dead ends using Google analytics, a quality problem which is improving. For visual “look and feel”, however, I perceive Google as reflecting its true engineering colors.
Now for Yahoo.com’s search portal:
- (7) Focused on people’s daily lives—their work and their dreams?
- (8) Making every millisecond count?
- (5) Truly powerfully simple?
- (8) Engaging beginners/attracting experts?
- (9) Daringly innovative?
- (8) Designed for today’s world?
- (8) Planned for present-day and future business?
- (8) Eye-enlightening without becoming mind-distracting?
- (8) Worthy of users’ trust?
- (8) Adding a human touch?
Total UX score: 77
- Given how users apply the web to their lives, work, and dreams, I see Yahoo! doing well, even if they’re succeeding with more of a “push” (old-school portal) mode. UX quality, for me, is mitigated by obtrusive ads and fluffy—if assumedly click-driven—news content.
- When it comes to performance, Yahoo! is very Googley. More images tend to slow browser draw, though not perceptibly.
- No. But powerfully clear, yes.
- Yahoo! engages beginners, certainly. And allows everyone else to advance quickly, too.
- It’s innovative, certainly. As a UI (, YUI) is a clear design leader, yet also appropriately user-safe.
- No less than Google. Perhaps my dear global readership can offer other perspectives?
- Yahoo! gets credit for being first to inhabit this space. Otherwise, no less than Google. Maybe more.
- Delighting for the eye. . . relatively, yes. Score diminished by animated/image-paid content.
- A solid player on the trust vs. personalization front. Better public perception and fewer concerns regarding length of stay.
- I do perceive Yahoo! as having a more human touch, visually, especially as it relates to their service strategies. Google culture, for all its impressive and hyper-visible UX philosophy, remains primarily computer science/engineering-centric.
So as far as search services offered are concerned, yes—Yahoo! is very Googley. By definition, of course, no one can be Googley-er than Google. And Yahoo! sticks to its roots by continuing with the classic portal format. However, Yahoo! has certainly improved this user interface design and interaction design over the years. But does Yahoo! represent less favorably UX-wise, according specifically to Google’s criteria for Googley-ness? I don’t think so. Despite Yahoo!’s UI innovation efforts, it still hasn’t pulled far ahead of Google in terms of popularity, either, as perhaps it should have (not for lack of effort).
For my part, I don’t care for the visual busyness and populist content provided by Yahoo!’s search portal. A light (classic Google) version would be smart. Perhaps I just haven’t found it yet. But given the “portal-y” visual noise, enough clarity still remains, improved by advanced, acceptably solid UI design which utilizes AJAX patterns. All told, I consider the Yahoo!, package, compared with Google’s offerings, a more consistent, usable, useful, even slightly more delightful experience.
Next. . . a comparison of AdWords’s and Yahoo’s search-engine marketingsponsored search, or SEM services—their real cash cows—measured again using Google’s standard of Googley-ness as our scale of measure.