April 20, 2010

10 Suggestions for Redesigning the Google Profile

Have you looked at your Google profile lately? (Here's mine) Pretty boring, right? Just a white page with a bunch of blue links, like much of the rest of Google? You might not look at your Profile all that often, but with Profiles being discoverable in Google Search and made more central to your online activity with the introduction of Buzz, it's possible that this page could be a major hub for your personal presence on the Web. Given the recent addition of Rick Klau to the team, it's clear Google wants to get this product right. It's also a great opportunity to give Rick and his entourage a little helpful advice. So here's what I would do if I got the opportunity to design the ultimate Google Profile:

1. Unhook Buzz from GMail and Open a Dedicated Buzz Site

This one is screamingly obvious - and something I anticipate to be a near-certainty, unless the criticism of Buzz had Google reconsidering its focus, which I don't think it will. If Buzz and Profile are to be paired, there has to be a way to get to Buzz on its own domain, outside of my e-mail. This, I believe, would dramatically raise engagement and ease of access. As each Buzz user's entry and comments link back to their profile, this in turn raises the visibility of the Profile itself.

2. Enable the Option to Remove Buzz Without Killing Your Profile

A corollary to the above is that in order to completely opt out of Buzz and disable it completely is that you need to delete your Google Profile too. That's crazy. That's almost punitive judgment for somebody who doesn't see things the Google way. That Buzz and Profiles are connected in the same way that Facebook's News Feed and Facebook's Profiles are connected is one thing, but to require the deletion of one to unlink the other should be fixed immediately.

3. Add the Ability To Import One's LinkedIn Resume to Google Profiles

Today, Google Profiles asks you where you've previously worked, but it's scarcely an inch deep. I would want the option to import my LinkedIn profile, complete with titles, companies and summaries, and be able to display that in a tab called "My Career", "Work" or "Professional". Of course, for those who don't have existing LinkedIn resumes, the option would be to populate this tab from scratch, but have it display on Google.

While this would not immediately gain you the relationship and recommendation portion of LinkedIn, it could easily be a new place for your online resume.

4. Introduce an Ability to Customize the Google Profile With Templates

The look and feel of today's Google Profiles is extremely sterile. Like many other Google properties, the wisdom has been data over design, and users don't have much, if any, opportunity to tailor the content in the way they would like. Rick Klau, having just watched fellow PM Siobhan Quinn launch Blogger's new Template Designer, would do well to tap into that option, giving people more ownership of how they are presented online. In fact, Rick's quote: "How you express yourself online is a lot more than just a blog," from the interview we had on the day he announced the move, hints that he feels the same way.

I would want the option to change background colors, sidebar designs and reformat the page's elements - things that even Facebook gives you little opportunity to do - but others have done well.

5. Think Global, Act Mobile

All the trends are pointing toward increased Web consumption on our mobile devices, be they Android, iPhone or some other variety. Facebook's iPhone application has gained tremendous traction and is quite usable. Buzz was designed with mobile in mind. However, Google Profiles simply scrunch the text down in a small way for a smaller screen. It wouldn't hurt to have Profiles recognize mobile browsers and provide a superior mobile experience.

6. Highlight My Streams By Category - Like Status Updates!

Google Profiles do a good job of featuring links out to other third-party services where I participate. If I register dozens of social sites, and you know I have them, these disparate icons will litter the right side of my Profile. But like MyBlogLog and FriendFeed, the icons themselves don't tell a story. The story comes from the content being created at each of those sites. While some of my streams might be flowing through my Buzz tab, I should also be able to choose to share my Tweets, native FriendFeed updates or GChat status updates on my profile, as a lifestream, in a "Status Updates" tab in my profile, which would show the most recent shares at the top. Similarly, if you have multiple photo site accounts, you could pull in the latest updates from Flickr, Smugmug and Picasa in a tab called "Photos".

7. Raise the Visibility of Contact Information, and Remove the Tab

Today, my Google Profile says my name, my title, and features my latest status update at the top, generated through GMail's GChat feature - and even that status message is not visible to anyone who is not a connected "chat buddy". The contact information I have provided, including e-mail, phone, and address, optionally posted by me, is tucked behind a tab. If I have opted to make this information public, it should have higher visibility, and could easily take the spot where the bulky status message is today.

8. Reduce The Automatic Behavior and Placement of Photos

In today's Google Profile, your title and avatar are immediately underwritten with a strip of photos. It's a cool feature, to be sure, but their is no option to put them somewhere else, to resize them, to add any relevant information about photos, etc. If photos are not something I think should be a lead part of my experience, then I would want to minimize their focus, or even tuck them behind one of the tabs at my disposal. Today, these photos pull from Flickr, Picasa, or from other hand-entered photo streams, but they all look the same - disconnected and unrelated.

Facebook has become the king of photo uploads not just because of the network's relevance and reach, but also thanks to the option to leave comments on these photos, or to tag other people. Google Profiles do nothing but link out, making the photos vestigal. Unless Google wants us to upload photos directly to our Profiles, they should get lower visibility.

9. Sidewiki Doesn't Deserve the High Profile on My Profile

Sidewiki entries are one of the four tabs on my Profile today. I've made one Sidewiki entry, ever, and while it may have been a good one, it certainly doesn't rate equally with my "About" and "Contact" sections, yet it gets the same billing. That's silly. And for whatever reason, I cannot remove Sidewiki from my profile within my profile settings. It's impossible. If you're a huge Sidewiki fan, then sure, add it, but it shouldn't be there automatically.

10. Modular Permissions By Section

Google's default approach, and mine, is to make content visible to all, so that it is indexable and discoverable. If we have learned anything from the tumult around Buzz's entry to the marketplace, it is that one size does not fit all when it comes to public content vs. private content. But today, I don't even have the option to make my Gmail chat messages public if I wanted to, and others don't have the option to provide comments on their Google Reader shares to the public, but only invited friends. In reverse, if I chose to, I should be able to hide my photos from the public, or any other item, making that only visible to synchronous friends. If this can be managed in a simple way, it could go a long way to getting people comfortable in providing even more personal information to a company that already knows a lot about us.

Have you given a lot of thought to your Google Profile? I see this as a key weapon in Google's assualt on Facebook. More on that soon, of course. What else would you do to make this a better product?

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