Carl Sjogreen – How We Built Google Calendar

Carl is the Product Manager of Google Calendar. During his presentation at The Future of Web Apps, Carl shed some light into the development process in place at Google on a typical project and his experience building a great web 2.0 application. Carl said that Google Calendar started as a ‘classic’ Google product team, that is 1 product manager and 3 engineers. The original idea of a Google calendar system was conceived from customer feedback and internal need. In design Google Calendar, Carl said that “being smart isn’t always best.” Carl explained how they over engineered some usability features in the early Google Calendar version that they had to dumb down or simplify for the general public.

Carl also provided six key insights for your next product or company that I will now copy here verbatim.

The first insight is that easy is the most important feature. Think Google Calendar QuickAdd, Google Maps single text field. Google Maps has a single field as opposed to a whole address, city, state, zip code form.

The second key is to know your real competition. You always have a competitor no matter how innovative you are. The real competition often is the pen and paper. Do well what paper can’t, collaborate beyond the same room.

The third point presented by Carl is that visual design matters.

The fourth intuition which seems counterintuitive at first is to build products for people who don’t want to use them. Carl reminded the audience that “not everyone who can benefit from your service actually wants to use it.” Get your product in front of the applications people use every day “and then make it painless for people to start using your product without fully switching into a new way of doing things.”

The fifth insight provided by Carl was to time your launch properly. Carl made it clear that, “you better not launch until you are really ready. … Launch early and often, but not too early”

Carl’s last key insight is ‘driving usage.’ By driving usage he meant to provide enough touch points into your web application via an open API. Tantek also spoke about providing a simple to use API. By driving usage he meant to let your application to spread to as many site as possible without having user come to your site, think social beyond tags.

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