Decoding Google’s Secret UX Weapon
A peek into the brain of Scott Jenson, Google’s UX strategist. Scott Jenson presenting. Licensed by Flickr. Scott Jenson is a proper nerd, and I’m fully qualified to make this assessment because I’ve watched the extended LOTR trilogy about 9 times in the past 3 years. World of Warcraft is one of the many games Scott plays on a regular basis, but he doesn’t just stop there. He also gets angry at poorly designed shower handles, buys $29 watch bands just to see what they’re all about and can write an entire chapter about 1984 MacBook’s boot sequence. But when Scott Jenson puts his serious pants on, he’s capable of some real damage. During his time with Apple, he helped design QuickTime, and when he was with Google, he lead teams that designed mobile versions for Maps, Search and Gmail. Nowadays, he’s all about the Physical Web and the Internet of Things. I’m a big believer in reverse engineering stuff. Luckily, Scott Jenson has an amazing blog where he expertly writes about personal stories, lessons learned and his ideas for the future. I went through all 27 of his long-form blog entries and summarized recurring thoughts. “Why can’t you just stay in the lane?” — Scott Jenson, Assertive Instincts One time, Scott was driving towards a remote resort with his wife. The traffic was scarce, and the road was curvy. Every time Scott’s rental car clipped the edge of a lane, the primitive AI safety feature would beep across the peaceful interior of the car. “I feel like I’m in a video game!” his wife cried out in frustration. It got to a point where Scott had to park his car and shut the feature off. But, after 15 minutes of browsing through the car’s digital interface, he was nowhere near finding the switch. “I tried…. Lord how I tried,” Scott remembers. Instead of cursing his way through the vacation, Scott made it his “life mission” to fix the problem. Initially, he just wrote a list of improvements to fix the UI. But the solution “felt like a bandaid,” so he pursued it further. Scott introduced the idea to his coworkers at Google. “What’s your problem?” they said. “Why can’t you just stay in the lane?” his wife echoed. Scott Jenson is a busy man, and car safety features are a tricky, multi-dimensional problem. He moved on. But thought experiments aren’t rare in Scott’s life. One time, he purchased a $29 Mi-Fit band just to figure out why the hell are they so popular. He wore it for 2 weeks and concluded that a combination of Mi-Fit’s practicality and some of OS watch functionality could be a big hit (2021, Google?) “Functional products can be made with a chisel. Great products are made with sandpaper.” — Scott Jenson, Assertive Instincts As a product developer, Scott is painfully familiar with the Gartner Hype Cycle. Gartner Hype Cycle. Wikipedia. He calls it Assertive Instinct — the state where you are so hyped about your idea you can’t even imagine a world where it could be wrong or insufficient or simply incompatible with what people actually need. Scott’s solution: don’t rely on your assumptions. » Read More
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