The Problem with Google Wave: User Experience

Google Wave is no more. For those who remember the sound of the jaws of the tech mainstream dropping when Google showed the demo at Google I/O, that may come as a shock. For those who tried to use it, it’s probably less of a shock. I kind of liked ReadWriteWeb’s take:

Why did Wave fail? Maybe because if you don’t call it an “email-killer” (and you shouldn’t) then you’d have to call it a “product, platform and protocol for distributed, real time, app-augmented collaboration.” That’s daunting and proved accessible to too few people.

To say that people don’t get collaboration or that Wave was ahead of its time is a cop out. Wave IS an awesome product. Real-time collaboration IS changing how the world works together. On the Flash side that is one of the reason I’m so excited about Collaboration Services; real-time collaboration is fantastic.

But this was a case of Google’s user experience coming to bite them. Some people love the minimalistic experience of Gmail. And it worked a few years ago when it was first introduced, but the iPhone has shown how critical a great user experience is to user adoption. And frankly, Google’s user experience hasn’t changed much since the Gmail days and the applications are starting to feel dated. That’s not a big issue when you’re doing something as straight forward as email, but when you’re trying to completely change how people communicate, you need to provide a user experience that abstracts the technology and just makes it easy. Have we seen that done before?

iPhone

Exactly. Wave was a great technology showcase but it was not a great product. Google had the chance to fundamentally change communication on the web but they didn’t have the design chops to put it in a package that was useful to people and instantly easy for them to dive into. You can’t do an 80 minute demo for something that’s this big of a shift in thinking.

Hopefully Google takes this to heart and realizes that technology isn’t good enough. When you’re being revolutionary you have to design a user experience that makes the technology feel second nature.

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