Google Spaces

Spaces was more than a destination; it was a small group sharing app for people to share, collaborate and communicate with each other while organizing around a common purpose. Sending an invite is all it took to start instantly having conversations around any topic, share videos, images, messages articles and more. Best of all, you never had to leave the app to find links, articles, videos, conversations, and images. Google Spaces had Search, Chrome and YouTube built in. Spaces was launched at Google I/O in 2016 and shut down in April 2017.

Google Spaces

Team

Google Product Manager
Google Lead UX Designer
2 Slice of Lime UX Researchers
2 Slice of Lime UX Designers
Slice of Lime Director of User Experience
Slice of Lime Creative Director

Time

Three month engagement.

Role

Interaction Design
User Interface Design
Research and testing assistance

Goal

The primary goal of this project was to help the Google team understand, realize and provide a proof of concept quickly in order for them to sell and get approval to move forward with further discovery, design and delivery within Google. Ultimately the Slice of Lime team was tasked to create a “destination” for Google and non-Google users to manage and share information across multiple Google product lines easily and with as little interruption to workflow as possible while providing great experiences within the app and content.

My role specific was to provide research assistance while focussing on interaction, user interface, and prototyping using Material Design.

Approach

Initial explorations revolved around creating a group “roster” via any application within Goggles suite of tools like Inbox and docs. These rosters would serve as an alias to a group created within Google Groups no matter where it was created. The team would leverage Google’s existing work on Rosters as a starting point and uncover new opportunities and problems through User Research, rapid experimentation and iteration, and validate experiments with real group organizers and members.

Outcome

Through user research the team found that the initial approach, “Rosters”alias, was not the right solution for people wanting to organizing content, manage members and schedules, customizing notifications, allowing permissions based roles, and increasing participation.

The user research led the team to pivot into creating a Google Groups “destination”. This app eventually was named “Google Spaces”. The web app, iOS and Android apps provided Spaces organizers and members with a destination for groups of all sizes (targeting 20 or fewer as the sweet spot). The new focus was on designing for amazing experiences with a mobile first approach that would work for Google and non-Google users, and automatically pull in Google searches, images, YouTube videos and documents relating to the groups theme, topic, and discussions.

Impact

The research and proof of concept I had done allowed Spaces to be approved for further discovery, design and development within Google and was transitioned to a larger internal Google product team headed up by Product Director Luke Wroblewski and Google Interaction Designer Ilwon Yoon.

After its release in 2016, Spaces accumulated 5 million users and received great reviews. However, the app was viewed as another Google messaging app. The already crowded messaging market within Googles own family alone, made it easy to “Spring clean” and Spaces was shut down in April of 2017. However, the impact of Spaces on other Google apps was huge. What was learned from Spaces was applied to Googles existing products and services.