UX and App Design at Google – Takeaways

Yesterday I was at an interesting UX knowledgeshare event where Simon Raess spoke about user experience and application design at Google. Google being an engineering company at heart they arguably only put in the recent years more weight on Ux and Design. Also nowadays Google employs only 200 designers. Being an engineer myself, I expected to get some new insights from another perspective.

The talk was built around the first principle of Googles corporate philosophy “Focus on the user and all else will follow”. Being the first principle it is the most important one, and prioritised in favor of other conflicting aspects when making a product. Among other things, this means that the first thougth when starting with a product is not how to make money but what do users want.

The execution of this philosophy was explained with an outline how the product process works.
Focus on the user

Specifically for UX and design there are 4 interation phases Google follows:

1 Define                 4 Validate
2 Research            3 Design

The first thing is the definition of the product, and gathering of ideas. This comes from various sources, like their 20% time, Market Needs, and others.

After there’s a clear product idea the research phase starts. Research here does most importantly mean: Going out to the user, talk to the user and get feedback. So very early in the process of creating a product Google already starts to gather feedback for a rough idea. It is important to get feedback from a representative group of users, the type of users that should use the product in the end. Later in the research phase they create abstract personas. Personas are a way to classify typical user groups with their interest, habits, jobs, daily activities, emotions etc.

The next phase is the Design phase, where the actual design happens in the following sequence: Information Architecture, Layout/Workflow, Interaction Model, Visual Design. The design and research phase is lead by a designer and a researcher which are in tight collaboration. The design and research goes over many interations until feedback from users start to get positive.

Only when the feedback from users is positive detail planning starts. Finally the Design is validated by users and Google employees when the product is first internally launched.

Some tools they use to gather user feedback are: eye tracking, Labs, before and after experience questions.

Quite interesting to me was: no single line of code is written until detail design is finished. However engineers are involved during the design process but it was not so clear to what level and for what tasks. For me it would have been interesting to get some more information on the collaboration between engineers and designers in the process. Other than that, great talk!

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