This project with Google originally started as a feature whose purpose was for managing and interacting with groups of people across Google Apps. It was a lightweight way of grouping contacts that would be available wherever content is shared across the Google app landscape. This feature was also an intended as an entry-point for Google Groups, which would aggregate sharing within the feature and provide a central location for viewing shared content and conversations. Eventually it became Google Spaces.
Research takes many forms and this project started with a Research Planning Workshop with stakeholders. This type of research involves gathering stakeholders to agree on:
- what they already know
- what questions they want answered about their business or product
- why knowing those answers will help their business or product
- who their audience is
As a team, we explored several key areas:
- Do people want or need a place to connect content? Or is email enough?
- Does an organizing product fit into people’s lives / groups? Why? How?
- What types of tools do people currently use to organize their groups?
- Where are there breakdowns in the current experience?
- Where are the key opportunities for innovation?
- How can our potential solution solve both user and business pain points?
As a team we conducted 7 exploratory interviews and usability tests. We did this to help us answer questions we had from our Research Planning Workshop. We also took a portion of each session to understand, if what was designed by the client, was useful in solving the needs of our participants. Four of the main themes found during the interviews and usability tests were:
- Our participants primary task was to organize people’s schedules
- There is a feeling of content overload with every email causing people to feel left out and annoyed by unimportant notifications.
- There are different role beyond organizer and member within groups
- Group success is dependent on individual participation of members
Sometimes a good idea is not a good idea with potential users. It takes a bit of bravery to recognize that and even more to switch direction.
The results of our research revealed an important insight. People were looking for a single destination where their small groups could have a place to share, collaborate and communicate while organizing around a common purpose. This insight led to the product pivoting from a supporting feature within other Google products to a primary mobile destination.
With the new direction, we were able to recommend:
- Provide an improved calendar experience using multiple group members
- Education around key features would be key to the success of the product
- Allow flexibility and scalability of notifications
- Product should work seamlessly with all Google products
- Enable customer roles, role labels and groups within groups
- Incorporate group voting on topics to manage group feedback
- Provide efficient way to manage group feedback outside of email
- Provide an easy solution for groups to transition from other similar products
Additional insight focussed on business strategy and additional research needs:
- A free product would grow adoption and generate revenue through other Google products
- Additional research was needed to understand the use of SMS in group context
- Communication of the products value to all group members will help product succeed (a customer journey map could identify where communication would be most effective)
With a new direction we needed a new design. Sketching and wireframing began and a prototype created based on the outcomes of our previous research.
A second round of usability testing was conducted in order to ensure the team was confident the new direction provided a useful solutions that provided people what they wanted and was easy to use. The work done for Google Spaces would be used to support the new app when taking it higher up within Google in order to get it built and released to the general public.