The User Experience of Google Chrome

Pulse UX had a piece on Google Chrome (the browser I’m currently using to browse the web) in late 2008 that becomes more interesting every time I read it. After thinking about the piece for some times, it comes to two general conclusions: Google Chrome is not a well designed browser, but then Google Chrome is not primarily a browser at all.

The point about the danger of starting-from-scratch is obvious enough:


What does Google Chrome mean for the future of user experience design?

In an article by Steven Levy, from the October 2008 issue of WIRED magazine title: “Inside Chrome: The Secret Project to Crush IE and Remake the Web” the developers of Chrome described how they approached the UX design problem for their new “world-beating” browser. In part they described the UX design methodology as follows.

“When deciding what buttons and features to include, the team began with the mental exercise of eliminating everything, then figuring out what to restore.”

Whoa!…that IS an interesting UX design methodology. The problem is that the Google UX process ignored almost entirely the past 25 years of cognitive science and related skill acquisition theory. The Google Chrome UX design methodology created, to a significant extent, the perplexing complexity of Chrome by ignoring several billion “person-hours” of prior experience that users accrued with established browser interaction models. Arbitrarily deciding what to leave out or include in terms of features and functions is…how shall we say…1950’s UX design.

… and dovetails nicely to my thoughts on the science and art of user experience research. However, the Pulse UX piece then convincingly argues that the primary purpose of Google Chrome is to be a rendering engine for Google Docs and other software in the cloud. Thus, Google Chrome is not a competitor to Microsoft Internet Explorer so much as a competitor to Microsoft Live Mesh.

The post is fascinating. The “art” of Chrome’s long-term strategy, and the science of measuring user experience, tie together nicely. Read the whole thing.

4 thoughts on “The User Experience of Google Chrome”

  1. An undo delete tab option would be nice… it’s weird having to just create a new tab and clicking over the recently removed tabs…

  2. Agreed!

    For me, Chrome is faster and more stable than Firefox — but the lack of undo close tab, as well as the recently closed tab menu, looms large!

  3. Oddly enough, my recent experimentation showed an advantage of IE over Chrome–Chrome’s more stable, but IE takes up less CPU capacity. Important when you’re juggling several programs at once.

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