Making Google Talk Better

November 30, 2005 at 6:08 am | Posted in usability | 1 Comment

Hm… I’m a self admitted IM freak. I use IM religiously and devoutly, normally logging 12+ hours daily on IM. So I tried the new Gtalk client recently and it had some problems that affect me, being an IM freak, that I’d love to see addressed. I doubt they will be since I’m utterly not the target demographic (non advanced end user) but giving them some ideas is my daily positive karma contribution:

  • Standard Windows Interface. I’m not sure what is it about writing an IM client which makes you want to change the core OS interface but Gtalk, like Trillian, does this. Example — why isn’t there a maximize button? See my previous Trillian essay about this. Trillian is a brilliant product but I don’t want to learn how to use a very different set of GUI primitives.
  • Logging. Yes Virginia I know that IM logs are loved by some and hated by others but, if you need them, not having them is killer. I just had one of the best IM sessions in a long time over Gtalk and at the end of it I needed to capture the urls, thoughts, etc and I knew that if I closed the window w/o saving it to a file I was hosed. Files are so 1980s anyway. Particularly when you need to copy the text, launch notepad, save it and so on. Which brings us to …
  • Redefine Logging. IM logs are very, very useful but rarely implemented in a useful fashion. Logs w/o search are like peanut butter w/o chocolate — they go great together! There’s an interesting IM product on the Mac, Chatalog, I think the name is which forwards your chats to your .mac email account. Why not a default folder named “IM Conversations” with sub folders for “Bob”, “Bill”, etc and each im convo saved there. IM and email are really two halves of the same whole — online interaction either synchronous or asynchronous.
  • Tabs. Conversations need to live in tabs. Tabs need to be available vertically or horizontally. Vertically gives a lot more concurrent convos which is key.
  • Windows are Cognitive Burdens. I’ve never understood the separation between buddy list and conversation windows once im clients have a tabbed interface. Having more windows to manage is a distinct cognitive burden. I know it doesn’t seem like much but it is. That is, after all, why you see even Microsoft lessening the reliance on MDI.  Why isnt the address book just a tree control in a split pane ?
  • Pictures in the Address Book.  I don’t know about you, but for at least certain people, I’d far rather have a picture of them than their name.  I’d much rather send my wife an IM by clicking on her pretty face than “waytoolongrandomimhandle”.
  • Multiple Identity.  Like a lot of IM junkies I have *ahem* multiple accounts.  There’s fuzzygroup my erstwhile personal IM handle.  And then there’s feedster2003 for handling Feedster support and then there’s *censored* which I use solely for when I need someone to be able to contact me and I need to focus and can’t stay online in a general context.  And there’s more.  For me IM accounts are a bit like bunnies; they keep popping up.  Now this is an edge case that’s far over the line but I suspect most people who do even a little bit of serious IM at least make the work versus home distinction — or they would if the client supported it.  I personally live and die by Gaim because of three things:
  • logging
  • tabs
  • multiple identity
Anyway that’s my .02.  Overall I really do like Gtalk and while it isn’t right for me at present, its actually pretty damn awesome.  Thanks Google!
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    1. I can’t disagree with any of this, although on a greater note I think they need to create mac and linux clients to suite. I think its a shame that they’ve really neglected the mac world out there.


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