Google Groups Regroups With Beta

    October 5, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

It’s more than just a facelift, as Google took the existing Groups service that grew from its long-ago purchase of Dejanews into a more Googly look with an expanded set of features.

Maybe it is more remarkable that Google has learned to take a joke. The company’s wide variety of product releases have a lot of Beta labels, some of which have been in place for quite some time.

In discussing the new look and feel of Google Groups beta, Brett Lider a user experience designer for Google Groups, posted about the updated site and closed with a self-targeted zinger about the seemingly perpetual beta status of some products by saying, “we’re even trying to (gasp!) take it out of beta reasonably quickly.”

The initial launch of the Groups Beta is in English, but support for additional languages has been promised.

People can create individual groups and have access to a much cleaner design than the older version offered. Google’s focus with these changes is more people-focused than content-driven. Since both the old and new Groups carry the contextual ads that have made the company rich, that focus is to be expected.

New features added to groups with this beta include web page creation within the group. Lider wrote that many of the functions in Google Page Creator have been incorporated into the Groups Beta Pages feature.

Users can customize the appearance of groups they create. That includes colors, font styles, and logos for that group. Lider wrote that this was something users had been telling Google they wanted.

File sharing allows members of a group to upload their content for others to use. Each group has 100MB of storage space available to store the files they upload. The amount of space being used for storage will be displayed at the bottom of the Files page.

Part of the personal focus cited earlier comes from the Member Profiles people can create as members of a given group. Those profiles can include information about the member, and a photo if desired.

ZDNet’s Google blogger Garett Rogers commented on one aspect of the Groups Beta design. He found one issue to be a head-scratcher”

…there is one thing that is already driving me up the wall – the right sidebar. The “navigate using the left sidebar” convention isn’t being used, potentially causing confusion. Conventions are wonderful things, and are usually a “free ticket” for people doing user experience work. Conventions avoid question marks – those evil things that make users “wonder”.

It looks like Google is using a convention, though, in keeping with its customary ad placement on the right side of a page, as they do in search results, Gmail inboxes, etc. Placing the navigation on the right gives users more area of the Groups Beta to play with as they customize their new groups. If navigation were on the left, that would limit the available space on the page by the width of the navigation elements.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.