Sheena Bouchier

SENIOR UX DESIGNER

We need to Talk about Google. Or Chat. Or Hangout. Or whatever.

Unifying various messaging services seems like a good idea, but in so doing with Hangouts has Google diluted its offering and confused users?

iMessage does it perfectly. You write a message to your friend’s phone number and if you’re both online (and have iPhones), it sends as an iMessage. If you’re not both online, it sends an SMS. Either way, a message is delivered immediately. This functionality supports and enhances our observed user behaviour. People send text messages instead of IMs because it's important to them that their message is received, and quickly.

Don't make me think!

It's the basic rule of usability. The user should be able to 'get' what a thing is and how to use it without too much effort. Again, iMessage does this perfectly. You don't have to think about which communication channel you're using, because it will be received immediately either way. You don't have to think about which personality you’re contacting, or which of your personalities you're contacting from, because it's based on the phone number. There’s no opportunity for error. Simple.

Poor user experience will cause a service to lose users

When I told him about the transgender woman story, my friend became worried about his personal Google account being tied to his phone number. His Google name is ‘Shane Assman’ (in reference to the Seinfeld episode where Kramer get’s the wrong plates from the DNV). Shane is a teacher and immediately saw the risk of inadvertently sending a message via his Google identity and having a classroom full of teenagers calling him ‘Mr. Assman’. He has now uninstalled KitKat and replaced it with a custom ROM so that he can personalise his messaging experience.

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