Google Lacks Apple’s Emotional Design

I really enjoyed an article in Search Engine Land comparing Apple’s Siri with Google’s Voice Actions. It does a really nice job of comparing the two voice recognition operating systems. Here’s a picture from the article:

My take: The essence of experience design comes down to three questions:

  • Functional: Does it do what you want it to do?
  • Accessible: How easy is it to do what you want to do?
  • Emotional: How does it make you feel?

There’s no doubt that Apple has been a master at experience design. Everything from the form factor of its products to its retail store model addresses those three items. Google, on the other hand, has mastered two of the areas: functional and accessible. It tracks efficiency like no other company and delivers amazing results. You can find almost anything you want with Google’s search capabilities.

One company has mastered experience design while the other has mastered engineering, which represents two-thirds of experience design (see my post: Google Squeezes The Soul Out Of Design). The difference between the companies comes out loud and clear when comparing Google Voice Actions with Siri.

  • Personal. Apple gave its application a human identity, Siri. Google, on the other hand, named its voice application after its functionality.
  • Tailored. Apple anticipates the user’s intent and tailors the results to meet a specific use case. Google provides a relevant list of search results.
  • Compelling. Google’s marketing of its voice application was almost non-existent (as far as I can tell). Apple, on the other hand, makes its voice interface widely known. And when Apple showcases Siri, it seems much more exciting and accessible than Google Voice Actions. Look at how each firm describes its offering on its website:

Which voice application would you want to use?

The bottom line: Google needs to focus more on emotions

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about these topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

7 Responses to Google Lacks Apple’s Emotional Design

  1. Michael says:

    I think with a feature like voice-recognition, relatively speaking, doing what you want it to do (Functional) cannot be overcome by the other 2. Maybe that is the case when it comes Experience Design as a whole and why you place it first on your list, but the patience of user to continue to repeat themselves carries different level of frustration than say, clicking on a button. Simply based on observation and what seems to be a collective disgust people hold for automated customer service systems, not matter how sweet and polite the voice is on the other end, no one likes to have to ask for something 2, 3, 4 times.
    I’m very interested to see if Apple can overcome what I believe to be a strong distrust in voice recognition among the general public. I’m also rooting for them.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I disagree. The world doesn’t need a world of Apple products. Apple is great at giving it’s target market a great experience. That requires it a passionate devotion to its target market. Google should focus on it’s target market which is not necessarily the same as Apple’s.

  3. Michael says:

    @Anonymous, I’m not sure that is what Bruce is saying. Nor am I.
    It’s less of a question about specific target markets and more about good emotional design. My support for Apple in the Voice Recognition category is not support for an Apple-ruled world. It is for a well designed world.
    I don’t care who “wins”, as long as companies are striving to deliver a better experience. Then we all win. Hell, Microsoft has a new voice recog built into their latest Kinect game console. I’m rooting for them too.
    Try not to let your Apple-hate get in the way of forming an objective opinion.
    Blackberry carrying, ThinkPad typing, iPad tapping owner

    • Anonymous says:

      If you’re not designing for a target market, then who are you designing for? A “good emotional design” will mean different things to different people and zilch to other people. For me, I don’t want “a good emotional design”, I want functionality. Apple intentionally limits your functionality in exchange for “a good emotional design”. IMO this simplicity is genius. I don’t say that in a negative way, because I sincerely respect it and hope to copy this and the “emotional design” that you mention in the article for software that I write in the future. BUT you are doing a disservice to assume that this is a universal desire. For my personal tools, “emotion” is low on my list of desires. So I would hate for Google to try to appeal to my emotions when I’m just looking for functionality. These things (“emotion”, “good design”) cannot be discussed as universal truths, because they are not.

  4. Danielle says:

    I’m not sure if Google’s target market is that much different than Apple – I’m a fan of both companies but I definitely find Google a little stale when it comes to Android. They have personality in other areas, I’m not sure why they don’t carry it over more into Android.

  5. Arti says:

    Interesting discussion. I have not been a Apple fanatic, but I must say that more I use their products… more I love them. Like after using macbook for sometime now, I dont think I can ever switch to another machine. There is something so nice about the design. Feels it was made keeping user in the mind. Have used iphone, android phone, blackberry, ipad, macbook, vaio, IBM, Nokia….. Apple definitely stands out in the design. And when I say design I mean.. ease to use.
    Like I say, “You put your heart into anything, and you get exceptional results”. Apple seems to have done it very well in the way they design products.

  6. Michael says:

    @anonymous Can’t seem to reply in-line to your response from my iPad, so much for “good design.”
    I never said you don’t design for a target market, so let’s not chase that herring. I did say, though, that I was for “better experiences.” Bruce can give it a name if he wants to, and if anyone has the right to do so here it’s him, but PLEASE point out a “functional” experience that you enjoy using that is not well designed, with emotion or otherwise. I think you are forcing your position a bit by saying that you would choose a functional experience that does not consider the emotional factors that come into play when interacting with it over one that does.
    Nothing is a universal truth, so let’s not go there, but based on significant research humans are incapable of approaching anything with purely a rational mindset. Whether it be choosing a stock to invest in or cough medicine to buy for their child.
    BTW, if you want an example of functional design that lacks emotion, go no further than RIM products and their plummeting market share.

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