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Why Google+ Circles is Failing
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Why Google+ Circles is Failing

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A quick-and-dirty task-based usability study that set out to understand one aspect of the Google+ experience. Conducted by IIT Institute of Design Graduate Students Jin Shaun Ang, Kris Angell, and Joe ...

A quick-and-dirty task-based usability study that set out to understand one aspect of the Google+ experience. Conducted by IIT Institute of Design Graduate Students Jin Shaun Ang, Kris Angell, and Joe Gray. More here: http://bit.ly/sZDcIP

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  • Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
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  • I totally agree with you about the G+
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  • @mandarake: Thanks for reading. It seems you’ve misunderstood the finding on slide 17 and perhaps we should have worded it more clearly. We do not state that Google+ 'has friend requests,' rather we observed that users expect the task of adding friends on Google+ to act similarly to Facebook in this regard. The slide reads:

    'Once a friend is found, users assume their friend request must be accepted:
    Based on their previous experience with Facebook, users assumed they couldn’t privately message their new friends until their friend request was accepted.'

    So to your point, our respondents failed to understand that Google+ can be both unidirectional and bi-directional.

    Regarding problem framing: We declared our intent on slide two (understanding why Circles is underutilized) and designed a task-based diagnostic usability test with Google+ users toward that end. None of our respondents felt the task we asked them to perform was outside of the realm of activities they would expect to do on Google+. How, specifically, do you feel we should have framed the problem in this case? How would you have designed the diagnostic task?

    With regard to expected results, we of course had some ingoing hypotheses based on an heuristic evaluation conducted prior to this small study (it’s not uncommon to do such an evaluation prior to engaging users in a full-blown usability test). The recruited users conducted the task while we observed their behaviors and recorded the motion and clicks of their mouse. Our findings, some of which supported our hypotheses, are based on these observations.

    Regarding subject bias: None of our respondents were told of any of our hypotheses prior to the study. Nor were they recruited based on characteristics that would specifically compromise their ability to complete the diagnostic task.

    Lastly, it is our hope that this study helps create a better Google+ user experience. So if I have a bias, it is certainly on the side of the user.
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  • I stopped reading after Slide 17, where the authors showed their ignorance. Google+ does not have 'friend requests.' That's a fundamental difference in the way Facebook treats relationships (bidirectional 'friends') vs. Google+ (can be unidirectional or bidirectional).

    So this study is really a great example of investigator and subject bias and failing to frame the problem, thus getting expected results. Bookmarked for that reason. :)
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  • precise!
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  • Quick little usability study conducted by Jin Shaun Ang, Kris Angell, and Joe Gray of the IIT Institute of Design.
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Why Google+ Circles is Failing Presentation Transcript

  • 1. USABILITY RESEARCH REPORT:UNDERSTANDING PRIVATE GROUPCOMMUNICATION ON GOOGLE+ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 2. Q: HOW IS IT THAT CIRCLES, ARGUABLY THE MOST LAUDED FEATURE OF GOOGLE+, GOES SO VASTLY UNDERUTILIZED?ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 3. AGENDA STUDY OVERVIEW KEY FINDINGS RECOMMENDATIONSANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 4. BACKGROUNDGoogle+ is a new social media platform that waslaunched on June 28, 2011. Google+ drew a frenzy ofmedia attention at the time of its launch, with manyearly adopters deeming it a viable challengerto Facebook.However, after the initial surge of new accounts werecreated on Google+, the volume of activity has fallenoff sharply and is behind initial expectations.Our goal is to understand how we can optimize acompetitively differentiating feature of Google+:enhanced control over group sharing and messaging.ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 5. OBJECTIVESThe specific objectives of this usability study areas follows:‣ Identify and diagnose usability issues that interfere with users’ ability to communicate privately with other Google+ users via Google+ Circles.‣ Evaluate whether Google+ Circles is fulfilling user expectations and delivering on it’s stated promise, “Share just the right things with just the right people.”ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 6. METHODOLOGYWe conducted a total of six diagnostic usability interviews with Google+ userswho have limited experience with the platform.‣ Each session was approximately twenty minutes in duration and included a short participant introduction to the project, warm-up discussion, diagnostic task-based usability evaluation, and a closing discussion.‣ Each of the six sessions were comprised of one participant, one facilitator, and two observers who recorded notes and operated video equipment.ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 7. PARTICIPANT PROFILES‣ Participants were required to be Facebook users who had recently signed up for Google+‣ All participants currently use Gmail and are familiar with Google’s offerings Marie: Avid Facebook user. Uses it to socialize Shannon: Moderate Facebook user. Uses it to Matt: Avid user of several social media and coordinate group events. keep tabs on friends and family near and far. platforms including Facebook and YouTube. Mike: Occasional Facebook user. Likes Amy: Moderate Facebook user. Likes sharing Lisa: Frequent Facebook user and early reading content his friends share. photos and social experiences with friends. adopter of Google+.ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 8. DIAGNOSTIC TASKIn order to observe users privately communicating to a small group on Google+,we asked them to complete the following sequence of tasks:‣ Find three Google+ users whose names and Gmail addresses were provided‣ Create a customized Google+ Circle‣ Add these three Google+ users to the newly created customized Circle‣ Post a private message to this CircleThey did so by performing the following scenario:‣ Imagine you and three friends are planning a surprise party for your mutual friend Sara. The party is in two weeks. To keep Sara (who is also on Google+) from finding out, you need to develop your plans privately and have decided to use Google Plus to do this.ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 9. AGENDA STUDY OVERVIEW KEY FINDINGS RECOMMENDATIONSANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 10. OVERALL, GOOGLE+ DID NOT DELIVERON USER EXPECTATIONS FOR PRIVATE GROUPCOMMUNICATION DUE TO THEFOLLOWING OVERARCHING ISSUES:‣ Users approach Google+ with a set of expectations firmly based on prior experience with Facebook, yet Google+ fails to align with these expectations.‣ Google+ employs a series of common metaphors that clash with user expectations as to how the interface should behave.ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 11. WE IDENTIFIED FOUR KEY BARRIERS . . .ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 12. BARRIER 1: FINDING AND ADDING NEW FRIENDS IS AN UNCLEAR PROCESS BARRIER 2: USERS’ EXPECTED SEQUENCE OF ACTIONS ARE NOT SUPPORTED BARRIER 3: GOOGLE+ FAILS TO PROVIDE CLOSURE AT KEY POINTS BARRIER 4: KEY METAPHORS OF THE GOOGLE+ EXPERIENCE ARE MISUNDERSTOODANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 13. BARRIER 1 HOW DO YOU FIND SOMEONE?ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 14. BARRIER 1USERS ARE UNCLEAR AS TO WHICH OF SEVERALFUNCTIONS THEY SHOULD USE TO FIND FRIENDS‣ The Search Google+ box does not indicate what types of search it should be used for, nor does it facilitate member searches by Gmail address.‣ While Send invitations is intended for existing members to invite new friends to join Google+, users confused it for a method of finding and adding friends.‣ While Find Friend didactics appeared in new user streams, these were not present for participants who had been using the site for several weeks.ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 15. BARRIER 1FURTHER, USERS HAVE NO MEANS OFCONDUCTING AN ADVANCED SEARCH‣ Users are forced to sort through lists of suggested friends and potential matches to their searches, with no options to refine their search criteria with additional types of data (e.g. city of residence, school, workplace, etc.)ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 16. BARRIER 1ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 17. BARRIER 1ONCE A FRIEND IS FOUND, USERS ASSUME THEIRFRIEND REQUEST MUST BE ACCEPTED‣ Based on their previous experience with Facebook, users assumed they couldn’t privately message new friends until their friend request was accepted.‣ Clicking on a newly added friend’s profile page reinforced this assumption by stating, “[user name] hasn’t shared anything with you.”ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 18. BARRIER 1 “How do friends accept me? Are we all put into the same circle? ~MikeANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 19. BARRIER 1: FINDING AND ADDING NEW FRIENDS IS AN UNCLEAR PROCESS BARRIER 2: USERS’ EXPECTED SEQUENCE OF ACTIONS ARE NOT SUPPORTED BARRIER 3: GOOGLE+ FAILS TO PROVIDE CLOSURE AT KEY POINTS BARRIER 4: KEY METAPHORS OF THE GOOGLE+ EXPERIENCE ARE MISUNDERSTOODANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 20. BARRIER 2USERS EXPECT TO BE ABLE TO PRIVATELY SENDMESSAGES TO CIRCLES VIA THE CIRCLES PAGEPath expected by users: Send a private message to members of a Circle from Circles Page (currently missing).Actual path:ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 21. BARRIER 2ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 22. BARRIER 2USERS WENT AS FAR AS IMPROVISING TO MAKETHIS FLOW MATCH THEIR EXPECTATIONS.HERE IS ONE SUCH EXAMPLE . . .ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 23. BARRIER 2 Using the Circle description box as a message field:ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 24. BARRIER 1: FINDING AND ADDING NEW FRIENDS IS AN UNCLEAR PROCESS BARRIER 2: USERS’ EXPECTED SEQUENCE OF ACTIONS ARE NOT SUPPORTED BARRIER 3: GOOGLE+ FAILS TO PROVIDE CLOSURE AT KEY POINTS BARRIER 4: KEY METAPHORS OF THE GOOGLE+ EXPERIENCE ARE MISUNDERSTOODANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 25. BARRIER 3 “I don’t know if I’m sharing to everyone or just the group created. ~AmyANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 26. BARRIER 3LACK OF ADEQUATE FEEDBACK MADE USERSUNCLEAR AND ANXIOUS ABOUT PRIVATE SHARINGUsers often failed to notice that posts aretagged with descriptors indicating “Public” or“Limited” sharing, leaving them to wonderwhether their post is viewable by theintended recipients.“Limited” is used broadly for any post that isdirected toward a circle, leaving it up to theuser to interpret which circle the messagewas posted to or intended for.ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 27. BARRIER 1: FINDING AND ADDING NEW FRIENDS IS AN UNCLEAR PROCESS BARRIER 2: USERS’ EXPECTED SEQUENCE OF ACTIONS ARE NOT SUPPORTED BARRIER 3: GOOGLE+ FAILS TO PROVIDE CLOSURE AT KEY POINTS BARRIER 4: KEY METAPHORS OF THE GOOGLE+ EXPERIENCE ARE MISUNDERSTOODANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 28. BARRIER 4THE STREAM METAPHOR CONTRADICTSTHE CIRCLES METAPHORStreams imply public sharing.Circles imply private sharing.ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 29. BARRIER 4GOOGLE+ COMPOUNDS THIS PROBLEM BYREVERSING THE CONVENTIONS OFPRIVATE MESSAGING: Facebook Messaging Google+ Stream Post Follows Convention: Reverses Convention: Recipient(s) first. Message second. Message first. Recipient(s) second.ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 30. BARRIER 4 MOREOVER, THERE IS AN INTUITIVE DISCONNECT BETWEEN THE USE OF CIRCLES AS A LABEL FOR RELATIONSHIP STATUS VS. ITS USE AS A PRIVATE MESSAGING CHANNEL . . .ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 31. BARRIER 4When users first add people to their network in Google+, they are prompted todrop them into a circle, of which three examples are provided – friends, family andacquaintances.These starter circles are labeled in terms of the essential relationships that we allhave. They appear to be mutually exclusive, and collectively exhaustive –thismakes it straightforward to classify people into one of three buckets.ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 32. BARRIER 4Using circles as a way to limit messages to groups of people thus requires acognitive leap that is not entirely intuitive.In Facebook, friends can join groups or events, implying that if a friend, forexample, joins a particular interest group, his status as a friend does not change.In other words, private messaging is a function of context more thanrelationship status.ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 33. BARRIER 4On Google+ there is no hierarchy between thecircles – all of them exist on the same level.What happens when you move someone out offriends into another circle?Are you creating a new stream ofcommunications with him, or does hisrelationship status change as well?It is not evident that people can exist in multiplecircles at a time. Some participants’ firstinstincts were to find a function that wouldallow them to message a subset of their friends.ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 34. AGENDA STUDY OVERVIEW KEY FINDINGS RECOMMENDATIONSANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  • 35. BARRIERS RECOMMENDATIONS BARRIER 1: Add advanced search functionality and create a unified place to search, invite, and add friends. FINDING AND ADDING NEW FRIENDS IS AN Make it clear that users don’t have to wait for a UNCLEAR PROCESS friend to accept their request before they can begin communicating with them.BARRIER 2:USERS’ EXPECTED SEQUENCE OF ACTIONS Build clear bridges between the functions ofARE NOT SUPPORTED creating Circles and messaging to them. BARRIER 3: Provide more feedback regarding public versus GOOGLE+ FAILS TO PROVIDE CLOSURE AT private messaging to assuage users’ anxiety KEY POINTS concerning “mis-sharing.” BARRIER 4: Make the metaphors explicitly clear as to KEY METAPHORS OF THE GOOGLE+ their specific functions and better align EXPERIENCE ARE MISUNDERSTOOD metaphor function with user expectations.ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011