Thoughts on Google Plus ∩ UX Design

The enthusiast quickly discovers that new social networks like Google Plus are not interesting for their explicit, outlineable featuresets, but rather the subtle, practically indescribable usage-guidance that each included element of design provides to the user.

These affordances not only enable or discourage communication in each area of the site, they also help shape the more “fluffy bits” of writing, from the length of content to its mood – how playfully, introspectively, or authoritatively one speaks.

And these subtle affordances are what takes longer to grok. This explains why it takes a mere five minutes to use every feature of Google Plus, while the great technologists of our day have spent days “playing around” within the network – and we must use a kiddish phrase, because we don’t have the words to describe the type of familiarity we gain from sustained usage of a website, rather than quick perusal.

And so, welcome to the world of interaction design. One wonders why those roles are so hard to describe comprehensively – it’s because their raw materials are, instead of concrete and steel, hints and hooks into the subconscious.

Sure, to many, the only apparent business of the UX professional is in building bridges out of pixels. But their real challenge is building those bridges in such a way that the people driving can’t help but to buckle their seatbelt, or tune in to FM 90.1, or start craving ice cream.

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