Google Circles breaks two simple rules: simple steps & refusal to learn
There are two rule-type ways of thinking on processes and usability that I’ve come to believe very strongly in.
The first rule is this: the more steps involved in a task, the higher the desire of the user has to be to finish it.
The second rule: if people aren’t interested in learning something or lack incentive to learn it, they won’t learn it, regardless of intelligence.
I’ve been reminded of both these rules time and time again lately because of Google+’s Circles, which breaks both of these.
To be clear, I’m not saying that to use Google+ requires a tech intelligence, or that people are going to reject it because they’re lazy. I’m saying that to force users to make categorical decisions for every single person they add on Google+, and to then have to constantly mull over and edit those categories (rule one) when there isn’t a compelling reason to do so (rule two) is ultimately going to cost them users.
Don’t think of Google+’s success in terms of the tech curious, who have already adopted Plus and will likely stay, or for the technophobic crowd who have a difficult time understanding these things no matter what the payout. Think of those people who were reluctant to use Facebook; the folks that resisted for a long time and then finally got on just because it was the only way they could see pictures or because they felt like they were missing out on a lot, and even while using it every day, still feel kind of unsure about it and could, at any given time, take it or leave it. These are the people that I think Circles is going to have trouble turning into regular users.
Constantly deciding how to neatly categorize everyone in your life is a pain, no matter how much freedom you have to create your own categories and how many categories you can add them to. I actually find it kind of depressing to have to do this. Why should I have to define the people in my life so rigidly? It’s not difficult and it’s not complicated, but it does involve processes and decisions that are odd and annoying enough that they’ll likely to dissuade anyone except those people who are actively interested in using the product or highly value the content they get from it.