"Does anyone need an invitation to Google Wave?"
That was the tweet to be looking out for last year. Google Wave was yet another buzzword I had been hearing about. Like many new things, I eagerly wanted to be part of it. After all, it is my job to be in the know when it comes to the digital world.
What is (or was) Google Wave, you ask? Let me set the Wayback Machine to May 2009. That’s a long time ago when you’re talking Internet. Google announced it was working on an application that sounded like it was going to be the end of e-mail and possibly social media as we knew it.
You would be able to collaborate on projects with people online in real time, exchanging files, photos, videos, etc. It sounded very promising and would come in super-handy when working on group assignments.
It started off as invite-only and everyone in my field was looking to get access to this service and test it out. I got my invite and used it for about 30 minutes. I expected to collaborate with other people right away, but was sadly disappointed by the lack of people actually using it. Really? After all the buzz, I had been ready to delete all my e-mail and social networking accounts. Well … maybe not just yet. I suddenly realized that this service might have been greatly over-hyped.
Last week, Google announced that it would no longer be working on the Google Wave project because it "has not seen the user adoption we would have liked." No kidding. Anyone I talked to about Google Wave said the same thing: "It’s a good concept, but not enough people are on it." Google was looking for its new idea to be accepted instantly, but it forgot about one thing: The user.
As we in the medical device world know well, testing is a very important part of a launch. And in the digital world, the invite/try-us-out method works well for the beta stage (i.e., the early testing phase of a website). In the case of Google Wave, however, it never seemed clear that it was a finished product and open to the public. The tryout wore out its welcome.
And so it occurred to me that when launching a new product, not just websites, it’s important to ask yourself these questions:
- How is this different or drastically better than anything else out there right now? What is it replacing? Is it ready?
- Are you able to explain the purpose of your product easily?
- Does it accomplish everything exactly the way you said it would?
- Are people likely to tell others about your product?
- Perhaps more important, are you making it easy for them to do that?
We live in an age when things move extremely fast and, as a result, people are attracted to momentum. So once you have the customer’s attention, you’d better make the most of it or your Wave may crash. If you want your idea to be a success in the digital age, keep in mind: The user is king. Just ask Google.
Benjamin Smith is the lead developer at Seidler Bernstein where he applies his considerable technology skills to a wide range of interactive projects. Ben works closely with his colleagues on the creative and account teams to bring client brand strategies to digital life. Ben keeps SBI and its clients leading-edge of technology with enthusiasm and good humor.