Whether you think Google can topple Facebook or not, one thing is undeniable about the field test of Google’s new social networking platform, Google +: the interface is clean, simple and straightforward. It’s a relief for anyone who is sick and tired of Facebook’s overly cluttered interface and less-than-intuitive menus for handling privacy.
One of the elements that Google has really knocked out of the park is making it easy to set up privacy levels from the start. Options are immediately available from the “Share” button and are tied into Circles that the user is able to create and manage. There’s a lot of flexibility to Circles as well, they’re not treated as a single group of Friends with sub-divisions as they are on Facebook. Each Circle is its own entity, which makes publishing items to a specific group much more straightforward and less nerve-wracking if you want to post pictures of your cat’s latest exploits to only your cat-loving friends without spamming your entire friends-list by mistake.
Not only is building Circles intuitive and flexible, it’s also downright fun and pretty to look at. I spent several minutes yesterday just dropping people into Circles from my various integrated address books just to see them bounce around the Circle and settle into place. Speaking of integration, Google offers hooks into Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter and other common sites through the Settings menu.
I’ve only scratched the surface of what Google + has to offer in the last 24 hours, but so far it’s proving to be a very user-friendly experience that bodes well for future usability and adoption. In my opinion, continued integration into other tools may be key to driving adoption so that users don’t get stuck with having to add ‘yet another tool’ to their portfolio of tools.