Dec-12-06, 2:30 am by Hanford
File under: Misc., design, Yahoo, Google, User Interface
Google screwed up and published a web page that was stolen from Yahoo's own design. You can learn all about it on Yahoo employee Jeremy Zawodny's blog. It's not a big deal, and people seem to be missing the bigger tabloid headline that this underscores: That Google is playing follower to Yahoo.
But then Google employee Matt Cutts, in a left-handed compliment, pointed out how Yahoo had stolen the look and feel of Google's sponsored links. Twice. Even Robert Scoble jumped in with some commentary about it.
But stealing good UI is different than stealing good art design.
In the case of the IE7 splash page, the art design was lifted. In the case of the sponsored links, it’s possible that what was being lifted from Google was UI — user interface and how it relates to usability — rather than art design choices. This is fundamentally different for a number of reasons. For one, “originality” isn’t really a positive attribute for UI. UIs don’t strive to be original; UI originality usually is just a byproduct of improved functionality. As new insights are made in UI, they cascade across the industry, with the best UI winning out and becoming more commonplace, while the bad stuff disappears (hopefully).
If Yahoo ran color tests in a usability study (not a focus group, but a usability study) and found that Google's sponsored link designs performed the best, then there's no sense in Yahoo using an inferior UI. This is how UI evolves, not just inside of one company, but across entire industries. Because good UI is about usability, not about originality.
Of course, I don’t know enough about the Sponsored Links thing and what went on behind closed doors to know whether or not Yahoo's design changes were for usability or just to "look like Google". I’m just pointing out the possibility, and how UI is truly a different beast than art design.
As for Google's IE7 ripoff: We shouldn't blame Google, we should blame a designer who works at Google. People make mistakes like this all the time. This all kind of reminds me of the Nazi Meat Roundup (And no, I’m not trying to invoke Godwin’s law).
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