Google: Utility, Usability, Monetization

About a year ago I saw a google executive, Vince Chirico speak on a panel at a local conference. One of the things that stuck out from that session was what he said about Google’s philosophy on how it builds new applications. He said:

Google focuses on Utility, Usability, and Monetization. And in that order

Every Google application has had deep thought given to what features would be best. Once the application is near feature complete, they look at usability. Usability is the secondary priority.

I was chatting with John McRee, one of the authors of Effective UI: The Art of Building Great User Experience in Software, about how that model is a bit broken. And, more importantly, how they are missing a critical piece of developing effective software, user experience. We often talk about the difference between usability and user experience and John just blogged about it. Well worth a read.

But even if Google’s divine trinity is good enough for them, is it in the right order? Should usability come after utility? I think if you are evaluating an application you can say that without utility is is not useful. But I would argue that without usability, it does not offer utility. When developing software, shouldn’t we have the conversation about utility and usability at the same time? And can’t we do better? Can’t we also make the software enjoyable?

  1. Jessica said:

    I believe usability should be a priority in most projects, but I think Google might be a special case. If I recall correctly, all (or most) Google apps come out of “20% time”. From that standpoint, a developer/engineer is essentially coding something up for fun or to solve an immediate problem (like a utility).

    Without the expectation that anyone else is necessarily going to use what is created, I think the philosophy fits. As an engineer, I create something I personally think is cool/useful…if other people like it and start using it, I pay more attention to their suggestions on improving it (usability?). Finally, if someone thinks my app has mass appeal they look at how to monetize it.

    As a developer, this feels like a nice organic way of creating software, especially OSS, that’s just for fun. If I worry too much about usability or user experience right off the bat, it’s going to feel too much like work and I probably won’t end up getting too far…

  2. Inga said:

    Utility, Usability, and Monetization – should be top 3 priorities in any project.

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