Google’s Design Principles

I owe you a proper recap of Leah Buley‘s earth-shattering presentation at the IA Summit, but because my computer battery had died and I was taking notes on paper, I’ve been lazy about typing it all up.

In any case, one of the things she talked about was the importance of using Design Principles to guide us:

I bring it up because I was just reading the Official Google blog when I saw the post, “What Makes a Design ‘Googley’?

Even though Google has been designing products since 1998, it was only last year that they defined their design principles to “make smart design decisions.” What they ended up with was:

  1. Focus on people—their lives, their work, their dreams.
  2. Every millisecond counts.
  3. Simplicity is powerful.
  4. Engage beginners and attract experts.
  5. Dare to innovate.
  6. Design for the world.
  7. Plan for today’s and tomorrow’s business.
  8. Delight the eye without distracting the mind.
  9. Be worthy of people’s trust.
  10. Add a human touch.

The way they’re phrased feels more like core business values than design principles to me. If I had been responsible for articulating these, I might have worded them a bit differently. Just as an example:

  1. Make user data front and center
  2. Every page must load in less than 1 second
  3. Reduce superfluous elements and leave lots of whitespace
  4. Guide new users; provide shortcuts and tools for experts
  5. Consider functionality our competitors aren’t offering
  6. Allow for universal accessibility
  7. Create scalable solutions that allow for growth
  8. Add but limit design flourishes on each page
  9. Provide accurate data and prevent errors
  10. Use everyday language

Am I way off? Should design principles not be as prescriptive as I made them? What are the key distinctions to make between core values, brand attributes, design principles and business goals? Can one list exist in isolation of the others?

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  1. says

    “Allow for universal accessibility” isn’t likely to be something Google will publicly say, as their own products fall somewhat short of the bar with regards to technical accessibility. It’s definitely a noble and necessary thing to strive for for the rest of us, however.

  2. says

    There is a big difference between every millisecond counts and each page must load in under one second. At Yahoo search we said “every pixel has a job to do” to express similar obsessiveness with utility and speed. Once you reach one second you can rest, but if you are always striving to be faster/lighter you question every design element, and your job is never done.

  3. says

    Christina, you’re right, I was making a big leap with #2. I was trying to swing the pendulum in the other direction to find where values end and design principles begin.

    “Every pixel has a job to do” certainly sounds like a design principle, but it’s pretty vague and could be interpreted differently by different teams. Is that the point or should design principles be more directional? How concrete is too concrete that it’s no longer a principle but a rule?

  4. says

    I think you hit it right on the head

    the ideas are clear and very important for anyone out there thinking of the customer 1st

  5. says

    I think ‘every millisecond counts’ is also relevant when it comes to user cognition as well as page loading speed.

    When designing interfaces it’s often tempting to compromise ideas due to business, technical or artictic pressures – choosing one interface widget rather than another, for example.

    I like ‘every millisecond counts’ because it empahsises the fact that we should think very carefully before compromising when it comes to ease of use – the user’s ability to understand the form or app as quickly as possible should be paramount.

    Even if it only saves the user a millisecond, it’s still worth doing and will make them enjoy the product more.

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