Decidedly Lazy: Why Google’s Approach To UX Works

“It’s exciting, and a little terrifying how many people see what we work on here.” -Paul Schlacter, Google UX team, and Visual Designer.

UX is arguably more important than your product itself. If you have an extremely good service but poor usability, no one is going to come back to it ever again.

Example: there were countless other search engines before Google hit the markets, but all of them were completely wiped out when Google Search showed up.

How Google Made Laziness Cool?

Let’s use the same example as before: Google’s in-house search engine. Google Search was by no means the first search engine; nor was it the biggest when it was launched.

So how is it that today, Google search controls a 92 percent share# of the global search engine market? #Source: Global Statcounter (Updated 2021).

Towermarketing says it’s because “Google provides simple, better results”. The keyword here is “simple”.

I’m sure we can all remember Yahoo! search… you know, the thing that used to bombard you with news, mail, images, blog posts, and ads.

Now compare that with the soothing plain white background of Google search’s homepage. I don’t know about you, but I relax when I see it. It’s the screen that says, “Don’t worry, we got this.”

Yahoo! had some great functionalities, but it was a bit of an information overload. I mean, the sheer volume of stuff on their homepage (even today) is a bit unsettling.

It distracts from the page’s main feature: the search bar.

On the flip side, Google’s homepage is restricted to the Google logo, two search buttons, and language choices.

The simplicity of it all is genius, and at the risk of sounding like a philosopher, I’d say it provides “breathing space’’ in our world of excesses.

Google’s Enviable Legacy of Laziness (by choice)

Aside from search engines, take a look at one of the pioneers of modern UX design below: The “Google Home Mini” Smart Speaker.

Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ab/Google_Home_Mini_-_grey.jpg

This did come as a bit of a surprise because it didn’t do anything too unique.

People complained that the wake word was too sensitive, the app was useless, and the AI couldn’t remember preferences at all.

To top it off, its mic positioning was a bit weird and it featured a seriously underpowered processor (the Synaptics AS 370 1.4 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex A53).

That is why many people (including myself) believe that the success of the Google Mini range was only thanks to its pleasing aesthetics.

You see, it follows the same logic as neutral clothes: you can pair them with anything. Similarly, your new Google Home speaker would fit right in at any spot you chose.

This serves as a testament to the importance of UX, and how it can impact your product sales.

Its UX team is what arguably saved the Google Home Mini from completely flopping.

Also, this is by no means limited to their software and “cheap” devices either; you’ll see this minimalist trend even in Google’s premium products like the Pixel 4, Pixel Slate, Google NEST Devices, and their Android platforms.

For instance, take a look at another one of Google’s most popular high-end physical products, the Google Smart Home Speaker:

Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6e/Google_Home_sitting_on_table.jpg

As you can see, the item is… plain. But it is one of Google’s best-selling products and is the only real competition to Amazon’s “Alexa” lineup.

It featured much better performance than the Google Home Mini but was also not without its flaws.

It lacked proper physical control buttons, could be activated by Google commercials playing on your TV, and speaking to it “woke up” all other smart devices in hearing range.

That said, a lot of people bought it because of its looks: sleek, modern, aesthetic. Google hit their target audience bang on. They targeted “always hurried” millennials.

The Google home helped them shave some time off their workflows, and looked sexy while doing it.

Side note: the Alexa range of products also features a similarly stark minimalist design (see a trend here?).

Is It Actually Laziness?

A lot of people call this approach “lazy”, but for me it’s dignified minimalism.

And here we circle back to the ultimate goal of UX design: usability. Google’s products may lack snazzy design, but that in no way compromises their functions.

Fewer distractions mean better focus. All Google products do what they said they’d do, and they do it bloody well.

Long story short, you should do what you deem necessary, but make sure that your product leaves the customer satisfied.

Human beings are both logical AND emotional creatures, so a product’s UX has to be about what the user THINKS, and also, what the user FEELS.

So, can you design a product, service, or digital asset that satisfies a user? No.

You can, however, design a set of conditions that would probably (in most cases) result in positive user interaction of your customer with your product or service.

Google lives every teenager’s dream: do little, and get rewarded for it.

Choosing to leave product designs as plain (lazy!) as possible has to have been the best marketing ploy in the history of mankind.

At Neurointeractive, nothing delights my UX design teammates as saying ‘cut it out’, ‘let it go’, ‘combine these’, ‘don’t make them work to find the right option’, and other similar outbursts of an energetic urge to distill, reduce, and simplify.

Think your digital UX could do with decluttering? Get in touch.

A digital evangelist, entrepreneur, mentor, digital tranformation expert. Two decades of providing digital solutions to brands around the world.