Google as a utility
Andrew Parker, an associate with Union Square Ventures, had an excellent post a couple of weeks back that I just found. While the bulk of the post was discussing Google’s metric-driven design process (e.g. testing 40 different shades of blue to determine which one garners the most traffic), he made a point at the end of his post that really struck me: Google is, for all intents and purposes, a utility:
Google is making the right choice by being so metric-driven in their design decisions. Not only is it the right financial decision, but additionally, Google is a *utility.* It’s a means to an end, not an end itself. It should be optimized for usability (think: efficiency) over user experience (think: fun).
There’s more than a bit of truth to this, and it’s a fantastic insight. Google is a platform more than anything. While Google does offer many different products that could in themselves be considered an “end” (e.g. Google Reader, Google Docs), they all ultimately serve to do one thing: sell more and better advertisements. This requires a different approach–it’s less about the singular, rock-star brilliant mind, and more about carefully and logically adjusting to incrementally increase traffic.
Andrew’s blog is a great read–he shows uncommon insight into business and technology. I can see why USV hired him (and why they are sad to lose him to Boston).