October 15, 2013

The Marissa Mayer is in the details

I've been reading a shorter, but free, biography on Marissa Mayer, who was one of Google's first employees before she became the CEO of Yahoo. If you haven't read it, you can find it here: The Truth About Marissa Mayer.

According to the book, Mayer had two ways to learn from Google's users:
  • The first way was to use the same technology as Google's users. She refused to use broadband in her home because most users didn't have broadband in their homes. Before Android phones became popular, she used an iPhone.
  • The second way was to measure everything. She tracked, surveyed, and measured every user interaction with Google's products. Then she used that data to design and re-design. But everyone couldn't handle it, or as one previous employee said before he left the company:
"… a team at Google couldn't decide between two blues, so they're testing 41 shades between each blue to see which one performs better. I had a recent debate over whether a border should be 3, 4, or 5 pixels wide, and was asked to prove my case. I can't operate in an environment like that. I've grown tired of debating such minuscule design decisions. There are more exciting design problems in this world to tackle."

Mayer's data-driven design got criticized, but it worked and is probably the reason to why Google's search, maps, mail, and news became successful.  

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