Monitoring the online customer experience, by Mark Hurst.
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Google = Good Experience

Friday, March 19, 2004
by Mark Hurst

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Consider this:

1. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page are new inductees into Forbes' list of the richest people alive. (See

2. Google takes in an estimated $1B annually, and growing.

3. Google's IPO, likely later this year, promises to be the biggest public offering in several years.

These are impressive results. Revenue, profit margins, IPO multiples, and the founders' personal net worth: any MBA will tell you that these are good measures of a business's success. By any traditional business metric, Google has succeeded wildly.

Yet the reason for Google's success is anything but traditional.

Google's approach to business is simple, a single rule that - if applied consistently across all channels, interfaces, and products - will yield tremendous results:

Create a good customer experience.

I've written about Google before, but a recent spate of articles about the company inspired me to remind everyone again. I'm also inspired to write because I'm continually reminded that many businesses - even a few practitioners of what we call "user experience" - simply don't understand the simple reality that drives business results.

Create a good customer experience.

Which is to say, many companies base their user experience on the wrong things: office politics, "me-too" reactions to competitors, the "rules" of information architecture tactics, inertia ("we've always done it this way"), the ego of the graphic designer (who just wants to work at a print magazine), serving advertiser interests at the expense of the user, and a dozen other excuses for why they just can't afford to pay attention to the customer.

I yield the floor to David Kirkpatrick, Fortune columnist, who quoted Tim Armstrong, VP of Ad Sales at Google, in a recent interview:

From the beginning we had the approach that the user's success drives the success of the ads, and that could not have been a more foreign concept to the advertising community.

(Fast Forward, 3/17/04)

Now let's hear from the New York Times:

With an estimated 200 million searches logged daily, Google, the most popular Internet search engine, 'has a near-religious quality in the minds of many users'."

And finally, let's hear from the users. In almost every listening lab we run at Creative Good, in which users are open to go wherever they want online during their session, they go to Google. Two years ago, we didn't see this: the average user hadn't even heard of Google. Today, people rave about Google in our listening labs. I've seen a day of listening labs where, unprompted to go there, unprompted even to search at all, 7 of 8 users go to Google at some point during their 45-minute session.

The enthusiasm and loyalty of these users is Google's greatest asset, the reason for all those traditional measures I listed above. And how did Google do it?

By focusing exclusively on creating a good customer experience.

It's true that Google still has challenges to overcome. Yes, Google will soon face competition from other clever search companies. And yes, Google might some day fall victim to Wall Street's constant demands for short-term revenue increases, bloating its site for the benefit of advertisers and partners.

But for today, let's see the success for what it is: Google = good experience.

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