Lesson #5: Focus On the User

“Serving our end users is at the heart of what we do and remains our number one priority,” says Page. Despite being perhaps the only company in the world whose stated goal is to have its customers leave its website as quickly as possible, Google is no doubt committed to making those customers as satisfied as possible.

“From its inception, Google has focused on providing the best user experience possible,” says Page. “While many companies claim to put their customers first, few are able to resist the temptation to make small sacrifices to increase shareholder value. Google has steadfastly refused to make any change that does not offer a benefit to the users who come to the site.”

To this end, Google has kept its user interface as clear and simple as possible and free from distracting and annoying advertising pop-ups and banners. It has created websites that load instantly and it ensures that all advertisements are labeled as such and are relevant to the user’s search. “By always pacing the interests of the user first, Google has built the most loyal audience on the web,” says Page. “And that growth has come not through TV ad campaigns, but through word of mouth from one satisfied user to another.”

Page claims that the keys to user satisfaction are to make the entire package work seamlessly and to give the user instant gratification. “You want answers and you want them right now,” he says. “Who are we to argue?” This is why Page and Brin obsess about shaving every last excess bit from their pages and to increase the efficiency of its servers, claiming that they continue to break their own speed records time after time. “Others assumed larger servers were the fastest way to handle massive amounts of data,” says Page. “Google found networked PCs to be faster. Where others accepted apparent speed limits imposed by search algorithms, Google wrote new algorithms that proved there were no limits. And Google continues to work on making it all go even faster.”

From their own experience, Page and Brin have learned the value of questioning accepted practices and inventing the right ones for them. They are not afraid of trying new things and learning from the results, all in the name of improving user experience. “We’re trying hard to find user needs that aren’t being met at all,” says Page.

But, perhaps the most significant evidence that Google’s priority is on the user lies in the fact that it is the users themselves who determine the search results. In contrast to its predecessors, Google’s revolutionary technology prioritized websites based on the number of links that linked back to a website. Thus, Internet users were, in effect, able to lend their vote to Google search results. “In general we’re trying to use the web’s self-organizing properties to decide which things to present,” says Page. “We don’t want to be in the position of having to decide these things. We take the responsibility seriously.

People depend on us.”

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