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Why Google+ Circles is Failing

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Why Google+ Circles is Failing

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

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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Why Google+ Circles is Failing

  1. USABILITY RESEARCH REPORT: UNDERSTANDING PRIVATE GROUP COMMUNICATION 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 RECOMMENDATIONS ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  4. BACKGROUND Google+ is a new social media platform that was launched on June 28, 2011. Google+ drew a frenzy of media attention at the time of its launch, with many early adopters deeming it a viable challenger to Facebook. However, after the initial surge of new accounts were created on Google+, the volume of activity has fallen off sharply and is behind initial expectations. Our goal is to understand how we can optimize a competitively differentiating feature of Google+: enhanced control over group sharing and messaging. ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  5. OBJECTIVES The specific objectives of this usability study are as 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. METHODOLOGY We conducted a total of six diagnostic usability interviews with Google+ users who 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 TASK In 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 Circle They 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 RECOMMENDATIONS ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  10. OVERALL, GOOGLE+ DID NOT DELIVER ON USER EXPECTATIONS FOR PRIVATE GROUP COMMUNICATION DUE TO THE FOLLOWING 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 MISUNDERSTOOD ANG | 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 1 USERS ARE UNCLEAR AS TO WHICH OF SEVERAL FUNCTIONS 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 1 FURTHER, USERS HAVE NO MEANS OF CONDUCTING 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 1 ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  17. BARRIER 1 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 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? ~Mike ANG | 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 MISUNDERSTOOD ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  20. BARRIER 2 USERS EXPECT TO BE ABLE TO PRIVATELY SEND MESSAGES TO CIRCLES VIA THE CIRCLES PAGE Path 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 2 ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  22. BARRIER 2 USERS WENT AS FAR AS IMPROVISING TO MAKE THIS 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 MISUNDERSTOOD ANG | 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. ~Amy ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  26. BARRIER 3 LACK OF ADEQUATE FEEDBACK MADE USERS UNCLEAR AND ANXIOUS ABOUT PRIVATE SHARING Users often failed to notice that posts are tagged with descriptors indicating “Public” or “Limited” sharing, leaving them to wonder whether their post is viewable by the intended recipients. “Limited” is used broadly for any post that is directed toward a circle, leaving it up to the user to interpret which circle the message was 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 MISUNDERSTOOD ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  28. BARRIER 4 THE STREAM METAPHOR CONTRADICTS THE CIRCLES METAPHOR Streams imply public sharing. Circles imply private sharing. ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  29. BARRIER 4 GOOGLE+ COMPOUNDS THIS PROBLEM BY REVERSING THE CONVENTIONS OF PRIVATE 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 4 When users first add people to their network in Google+, they are prompted to drop them into a circle, of which three examples are provided – friends, family and acquaintances. These starter circles are labeled in terms of the essential relationships that we all have. They appear to be mutually exclusive, and collectively exhaustive –this makes it straightforward to classify people into one of three buckets. ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  32. BARRIER 4 Using circles as a way to limit messages to groups of people thus requires a cognitive leap that is not entirely intuitive. In Facebook, friends can join groups or events, implying that if a friend, for example, joins a particular interest group, his status as a friend does not change. In other words, private messaging is a function of context more than relationship status. ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  33. BARRIER 4 On Google+ there is no hierarchy between the circles – all of them exist on the same level. What happens when you move someone out of friends into another circle? Are you creating a new stream of communications with him, or does his relationship status change as well? It is not evident that people can exist in multiple circles at a time. Some participants’ first instincts were to find a function that would allow them to message a subset of their friends. ANG | ANGELL | GRAY | ID - 598-12 | USABILITY METHODS, FALL 2011
  34. AGENDA STUDY OVERVIEW KEY FINDINGS RECOMMENDATIONS ANG | 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 of ARE 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

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