Mountain View to get free wi-fi (courtesy Google)!

So the city I live and work in is going to get free wi-fi from Google. Google had made this proposal a while back. The Mountain View city Council just approved the deal. So, by June we might have city-wide free wi-fi. (As a note, between the planned NASA campus and free wi-fi, Google is increasingly making its presence felt in Mountain View).

Apparently, Google already has a test center for their wi-fi at Kapp’s Pizza Bar & Grill on Castro Street in Mountain View. IMO, a better choice would be Dana Street Cafe. Its really the best place to get a cup of coffee and hang-out in this area (its also right next to our office!). They already have free wi-fi (courtesy Live555), but the connection can be spotty. If I did not have to charge up my laptop periodically, I would probably never leave (weirdly they don’t let you power up, even though they have free wifi).

Technorati – please take a page from Google’s design

I was just looking up something on Technorati and realized just how distracting I find the cute visual design – especially, the images to the left the search bar. Every time I go to that page, I find that my eyes go to those cartoonish figures. They are cute, but I am there to find something, not for the cute visual design.

aug13_technorati_google.gif And what’s with such a busy page? Seems like every possible option (Technorati Blog, Get Indexed, Personalize, Tour, Developer Center) has a place on the main page. Developer Center? Surely that does not need a link on the front page. It’s a search, not a browse page. I counted: there are more than 35 links on that front page.

Reminds me of something recounted by Marissa Mayer (from Google) at a BayCHI talk. They used to receive an email from a user once in a while. And everytime it would just have a number. Sometimes, the number would be high, and this user would express his displeasure. Later they realized that the number was the number of letters on the Google Home Page.

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Tagging versus categorizing emails

Word is Yahoo will soon be coming out with its OddPost inspired version. Ethan Diamond, one of the Oddpost founders, now working on Yahoo mail thinks that users are more likely to use folders than tags to organize emails. I tend to agree. I like the controlled messiness of tags for my bookmarked urls. And the social discovery of others’ bookmarks is very compelling. But for something as personal and important as my email archive – I prefer either a combination of folders and robust search.

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Designing for the Google generation

I just spent a few days watching people use a search interface for a site (lets call it Site X for now). What stuck with me the most was how different the design challenge was if the user was of the “Google generation”. Everyone showed the Google carry over effect – expectancy of high relevance, fast searches. But for undergraduates who had grown up with Google, it was as if that was the only experience they could deal with. Anything else was too complex, too slow, too not Google.

Take Participant Y (Lets call her Susanne). Susanne is an undergraduate in a California University. She needs to find some information on Site X – she knows it houses some special types of information, not found anywhere else. She does not know much about this topic.

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Google’s pragmatic, data-driven approach to user interface design

Marissa Mayer director of Consumer Web Products at Google, spoke at BayCHI on Tuesday evening. Some interesting points she made:

(a) When she first got involved in User Interface Design at Google, she was asked not to spend more than one day a week working on the interface! Also, she was asked not to give her opinions, but to provide data. So right from the beginning, design at Google has been very data driven.

(b) They do a lot of usability testing (mostly discount tests), both task-based and think aloud. From what I understood they do look at statistical significance of such test results.

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