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Google Web 2.0 and User Experience

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Google is making buzz again this week, with its spreadsheet. I don’t want to talk too much about it because they already got plenty of media coverage. What impressed me most is not the technology itself, but its marketing tactic. Google says it’s only open to limited beta testers, and here is the link . I think a lot of people signed up because of curiosity. This is very similar to its Gmail invitation only sign up. I still remember a while ago my friend called me and asked if I need a Gmail account, because at that time one person can only send 10 invitations (now it’s 100).

Gmail is certainlly very convenient. Its “group same topic mail together” feature works very well for group discussion. Note group is another good feature from Google. Sometimes when I got stuck with a problem, I searched it and found discussions closely related to my problem. Bingo. Another Google product I like is Google Map (now called Google Local), I used it for driving directions; and I could even see the tennis court in my community. There are lot of mashup of Google map, one famous example is housingmaps . This brings up a very hot topic these days: Web 2.0. According to wikipedia, web 2.0 generally refers to a second generation of services available on the World Wide Web that lets people collaborate and share information online. In contrast to the first generation, Web 2.0 gives users an experience closer to desktop applications than the traditional static Web pages.

We certainlly have come a long way from the early days of Internet. I started using Internet about 10 years ago when I applied the graduate schools in the US: I used the email only. The email program was rnning on UNIX. That was my first experience with Telnet and the “mail” program on UNIX. It was not very user-friendly. In order to copy the offer letter from my school, I had to copy the text screen by screen, save it to Notepad, and then save the text file to floppy disk. At one time, I could not typed in any characters in the terminal, the lab technican told me this was because I did not put in “enter” at the end of each line, and that particular UNIX editor could only take 256 characters per line. Even with that, 3 people (me and two other students) shared that email account I got from my friend in another university and we all got assistantship to come to the US. The tool was crude, but the attitude and work seems matter more.

The web is becoming much more usable. Google has done a good job delivering a pleasant user experience. Same as flickr. Same as eBay, Amazon, Yahoo and to some extent MSN. But they are not perfect, e.g., sometimes when I logged into Gmail, I had to click refresh several times to see the mails. Is it because of the lack of communication from AJAX (asynchronous JavaScript and XML)? I don’t know. One thing I do know is: if the email programs only have the UNIX interface, not too many people would use the email today.

1 reply on “Google Web 2.0 and User Experience”

I’ve created a site similar to HousingMaps.com, but I’ll be supporting cities it does not. The first major city that I have created it for is Honolulu.

Check it out http://hnlhousing.com

As always if you have any comments, specifically on the UI please let me know!

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