A round-up of the very best micro-UX and easter eggs hidden across Google's many products.
It’s very easy to criticise Google, and there’s plenty of justifiable disapproval levelled at the company’s monopoly over the internet. But despite record-breaking antitrust fines, it’s doubtful that Google will see a drop in its overwhelming 90% market share any time soon.
And what will be the main reason why we’ll continue to use the big ‘G’ for our various internet related activities?
Yes it’s because they own everything, but also… holy crikey do they make a good product!
Just look at Google Search’s homepage…
Has there ever been a more streamlined, direct and user friendly webpage than this? Well maybe apart from zombo.com.
You can understand the outcry from people last year when it was announced that Google would roll out a new homepage featuring customisable newsfeeds for the homepage.
But I would argue that it’s not just Google’s commitment to user-friendly and consistent design (as exemplified by its principles of material design), or its sheer ubiquity when it comes to using anything even vaguely connected to the internet, that keeps people coming back for more
Well alright, it is mostly that second one, but may I suggest something else that helps us warm to the brand…
Also referred to as Micro UX, microinteractions are the tiny interactions we carry out with a product (in this case a website or app) that help us accomplish a single task in a charming, unique way.
Here’s the author of Microinteractions, Dan Saffer with his thoughts on the phrase he coined…
“The difference between a product you love and a product you tolerate is often the microinteractions you have with it. They can make our lives easier, more fun, and just more interesting if done well.”
I genuinely believe that Google has really taken these principles to heart with its own product design.
Below is a collection of some of the best Google microinteractions, as well as some of my favourite ‘easter eggs’. These secret features aren’t strictly microinteractions, but they do have the same intention – they help humanise the experience and create that sense of ‘surprise and delight’ which is so popular with the kids these days.
You’ve probably already seen the dinosaur of despair when your internet connection disappears. It’s a grave omen indeed. But before you fling your laptop off the train and run into the woods to start a new life with the badgers, hit the space bar and you can play a fun little platform game with the scampering fella. It’s the most fun you can have not on the internet.
If you search for Bletchley Park, the knowledge graph reveals a live deciphering for the site of the British codebreakers. There’s no confirmation from Google that one of those combinations says, “Bing is rubbish.”
If the distance to your destination increases to more than a few hours, the little walker person turns into a hiker with added backpack, stick and Kendal mint cake, probably.
Courtesy of William Joseph, who says the spin on the compose button makes him send emails “just to see it dance.”
If you’re looking up Hawaii and you grab the little streetview character to plop down on the map, they turn into a mermaid. Because that’s where mermaids come from???
If you just click on the ‘I’m feeling lucky’ button without typing a search term, it takes you to the Google Doodle archive.
The Gmail Inbox app has a quick way of helping you identify phishing scam emails, by changing the icon to a fish hook. Nice try ‘Adobe’! If that’s even your real name.
Search the answer to life, the universe and everything, and you’ll presented with most accurate answer available, a neat reference to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe and, most importantly, a handy calculator.
When chatting via Google Hangout, you can confuse and astound the person on the other end with a variety of weird easter eggs just by typing a few simple phrases prefixed with a backslash. My personal favourite: /ponystream
You can also try /pitchforks, /shydino or /bikeshed.
Searching for do a barrel roll leads to Google doing exactly that, while also revealing my sources.
Play a round of solitaire on the house! The first one’s free, the rest will have untold costs on your existing workload.
For all your secular, non-commercial December celebration needs, search for Festivus and enjoy this unadorned, aluminium pole.
If you use too many full stops in your email address, Gmail will warmly correct you.
Ever get the feeling Google don’t want you to ever leave its search pages? OH WELL… Atari Breakout.