I noticed recently a subtle change in the typefaces used on various Google sites. You can see in the image above the subtle change I’m talking about. I wonder if this was the shade of blue that required testing of 41 different shades (page 3 of article) before it was approved (and that subsequently led to the departure of Google’s design lead)? Such a minor thing as this has to be maddening to the designers there, but it makes you wonder how much a small thing such as the subtle shade of a graphic can alter a user’s course on a web surfing journey.
All sites change over time as they gain market share, add features, improve usability, etc. Some changes are more pronounced. Others, like the one above, are very subtle. I wonder how many versions of the typeface and shade of the example above were tested? Afterall, Google Maps is one of Google’s ‘products’, just like the Accord is one of Honda’s. You can be sure that there are countless meetings to decide on the colors and shades of automobile line ups each year. You can’t make drastic changes without careful consideration - lest you scare off your users and lose all of those valuable clicks.
It can be somewhat abstract to think about websites as products, but as we shift to more and more virtual services, goods and experiences there is a changing tide between the physical economy and the digital economy. While this isn’t a ground breaking notion for most people to consider (especially for those of you reading this site), there are many citizens of the world that are not quite used to this idea. When someone moved in to the neighborhood in the good old days you would bake them an actual pie and give it to them face to face with a handshake and a conversation - you wouldn’t just post a cupcake on their wall on Facebook.