I opened up Google Drive this morning and there it was: a little pop-up telling me the ‘Incoming’ menu item had been changed to ‘Shared with me’. ‘Incoming’ had been a minor irritation for me personally, and I know of several others who have experienced varying degrees of confusion over this since Google introduced the concept. I found myself pleased to see the change, and all the more so because Google had taken the time to tell me it had been changed based on user feedback: ‘You spoke, we listened,’ it said.
It felt like a transparent way of showing users the results of the no doubt extensive testing and research Google conducts, as well as communicating the wider principle of how it evolves its products: iteratively, and in the interests of its users. There is also something about the notion of a large organisation willing to admit it made a mistake which helps to bring the user’s relationship back down to a more individual level.
The incident served as a reminder that good user experience evolves through numerous steps, from researching user behaviours and translating that insight into design decisions, to ensuring accurate execution of improvements and communicating the enhancements to the customers. This last stage is often the most neglected or misjudged, requiring delicate balance, lest the service provider come across as too triumphant in its pronouncements, not least because it is almost impossible to make changes which will please everyone – the language, both visual and verbal, is key. Here, for me, Google got it just right.