The Filter (week of May 26) 37signals 26 May 2006

6 comments Latest by Matthew Stibbe

Some interesting comments posted this week at Signal vs. Noise:

Is Don Norman right about Google?

Dave 24 May 06
The beauty of Google’s design isn’t that it’s simple, it’s that it’s fast. No tables, no layout, just a logo, a text box and buttons. Even on a modem it shows up in seconds.

And since the search is what most people want to use, having it be utterly uncluttered saves lots of seconds for lots of people. Those seconds add up.

Jay Reding 24 May 06
I think that Google’s very spartan homepage is a very deliberate decision on their part - in the end, everything centers around search. They do a lot of innovation, but in the end what Google is trying to do is replace the homepage and the location bar. You don’t type in a web address, you Google something.

For instance, has anyone seen the latest round of Pontiac ads? They don’t spell out their URI, they tell people to “Google” Pontiac - even showing the Google search box in the ad. That struck me as very interesting.

Chris Ooya 25 May 06
Google’s strategy is to not distract the average user with obscure services that 98% of web users do not need. Most of the new products they offer are discovered by us geeks who actually seek out this stuff, and the general population finds out about it by word of mouth…Google’s brand is identified as much by its site’s simplicity as by the Google logo itself. Filling up the page with a bunch of gratuitious links would confuse that identity.

In the end, it’s about focus. From The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Reis and Jack Trout:

The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the mind…This is the law of focus: You burn your way into the mind by narrowing the focus to a single word or concept. It’s the ultimate marketing sacrifice.

Bloat is a function of time, people, and money

Mark Gallagher 24 May 06
…It’s also leadership. Having smart people at the top that understand the power of simple design. In particular the product managers need to get it and communicate the priority of a simple UI to the project managers.

Google and Apple have tons of money and time for new product development, yet they keep the UI of their products pretty simple.

Smart leadership.

How to shoot a bullet through your startup

Mike Rundle 24 May 06
By following B2’s advice regarding funding/spending, you’re pretty much guaranteeing that your new for-profit company will forever remain a “non-profit”.

Whatever happened to starting a company on money you save, and then building something that actually makes you money?

Brandon 24 May 06
I agree that this does not apply to a web-based business. In terms of developing a software app, if you drop that kind of money to launch a product you’re insane. We used opensource software at every opportunity, put in long hours and a lot of sweat equity and were able to get to over $1 million in sales in one year, we were (and remain) profitable, and we did not have 20 employees at that time - it was closer to 5. It is now 3 years later and we’ve recently raised funding, but only took what we needed to achieve our current goals. By carefully watching our expenses in the beginning and every step of the way, bringing people on board with a range of talent and utilizing viral marketing we were able to achieve a lot with very little. You’ll find that when starting a business online (especially a web app) you’ll have a ton of leverage that’s tough to emulate “offline”. Definitely don’t listen to Business 2.0’s advice if you’re launching a web app.

37signals lingo: cheap/expensive

Anonymous Coward 25 May 06
More people should be like this in not only software development, but life in general. Just like I try to buy the bargain brands, don’t go out when I can fix something cheaper and healthier at home and won’t get women who are over $30 an hour, I won’t develop something that takes too long for an end user to download that it becomes worthless or implement something that takes days to develop for very little worthwhile functionality.

joe 25 May 06
I once had a client tell me to “never say cheap.” “Cheap implies lack of quality…Say Less Expensive. -That means less costly.”

filmnut 25 May 06
The more money you save, the more money your customers save (via lower prices). Lower prices equals undying customer loyalty. This is why Walmart works, because lower costs are a serious competitive advantage. The important thing to remember is that long-term savings is king. What’s less expensive in the short run isn’t always less expensive long term. That’s the tight rope you have to walk.

6 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Nathan Smith 26 May 06

Point of clarification: contains 3 tables. I agree though, the draw is not the design, but the simplicity and of course their amazing search algorithm.

Rikard Linde 26 May 06

The questions should be “in what ways is Don Norman right about Google?” and “in what ways is Don Norman wrong about Google?” and possibly some other perspectives that might be interesting “in what ways could the interface of be improved?” etcetera.

Jan Korbel 28 May 06

Sidenote to Google HTML code: I am constantly surprised how ugly the code is “font” tags. “b” tags used a lot, 270 validation errors… Strange…

Joshua Porter 01 Jun 06

“The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the mind”

Thanks for this….I really like this quote. I’ve heard this concept referred to as “top of mind” or “associative branding”. But this is a great distillation of it.

So, of course, the word that Google owns is “advertising” ;)

Matthew Stibbe 06 Jun 06

I posted on my blog about Google usability in March ( A chap called Andy Rutledge has done an interesting redesign of the Google UI and I wanted to comment on that. Personally, I think a big part of the Google home page’s appeal is the speed with which it loads and gets you to the site you want. However, now that I have a personalised home page, the map home page, the home page, Google mail, calendar, etc. etc. the current design is looking increasingly clunky and broken, in my opinion. And now they’re adding a word processor and spreadsheet. It’ll get worse before it gets better.