Alexandra's Mobile [Ad]itude - We obsess about user experience

Thursday, March 27, 2008 | 1:51 PM

In my last post, some of you expressed concern that intrusive and oversized advertisements on a small screen could result in a poor mobile user experience. You asked how we strike the delicate balance between ensuring a good user experience while providing effective advertising. At Google, we care very deeply about this balance and we're constantly striving to make sure that you have the best experience possible. In this post, I'll tell you more about some of the things we're doing to try to achieve this.

At the core of striking this balance is working hard to improve ad quality. The more relevant the ads, the fewer ads there need to be. In fact, when you go to on your phone and do a search, we now return no more than two text ads per query. These ads can appear above or below the organic search results and most take up just two lines of text on larger mobile screens. And while a single ad may appear at the top or bottom of a mobile content page, a double ad unit can only appear at the bottom of a page. Watch the video below to learn more about ad size and placement.

Of course, we also want to make sure our advertisers have a good experience with Google mobile ads. Fewer ads per page can be beneficial for an advertiser because there is less clutter on each page and each ad gets more visibility. More importantly, showing relevant ads and maintaining a good user experience results in better click-through rates and return on investment.

I hope this addresses some of your questions. Thanks so much for your comments on my last post and keep submitting more questions. This is your opportunity to guide the direction of this series!

Google Maps now native on more phones: Do UIQ? We do.

Thursday, March 20, 2008 | 11:10 AM

As a mobile user, you choose a carrier, subscription plan, platform and handset model (think of it as a flavour) that suits your fancy. And with mobile applications becoming more and more important in your everyday wireless experience, you want to be sure that the apps you know and love will run beautifully on the phone you finally decide to call your own.

That's why we've just released a "native" UIQ version of our Google Maps for mobile client application. Native applications are optimized for the platform on which they're built, meaning they run fast and feel right. UIQ is an open mobile software platform that supports rich user interfaces like touch- and full-screen. Now that Google Maps for mobile runs natively on UIQ for Symbian OS, you can get the full benefit of handy features like My Location on a wider range of phones.

You can already get Google Maps for mobile clients custom-built for Palm, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, iPhone, and Symbian S60, in addition to the widely-used Java version of the application. Now, this list includes the following UIQ handsets (version 3.0 and up): new Sony Ericsson phones with touch screens -- P1, W960i, W950, M600 or P990 -- and the Motorola Z8. And new UIQ phones are coming out all the time; look for the soon-to-be-released Sony Ericsson G700 and G900, as well as the Motorola Z10.

Supporting so many platforms means only one thing: whatever gold-plated, diamond-encrusted or mint-scented handset you choose, a zippy mobile mapping experience is never more than a download away. Just visit from your phone's web browser, and we'll get you sorted.

Fast is better than slow

Wednesday, March 19, 2008 | 8:45 AM

A few weeks ago, we launched a plug-in for Symbian devices that put a Google search shortcut onto the phone's home screen. This shortcut reduces the time it takes for you to get answers from Google by eliminating the initial search steps (e.g. finding the browser application, opening it, and navigating to before entering your query). The same plug-in has been available for BlackBerry devices since last December. Today, we're making this available for Windows Mobile devices too.

If you're a Windows Mobile user, browse to on your device to download the plug-in and start searching faster than ever. Once you do, we think you'll find it so much faster and easier that you'll start conducting more mobile web searches than you ever had before. How do we know this? Well, when we look at the combined usage numbers for BlackBerry and Symbian versions of this plug-in, we see that users are able to get Google search results up to 40 percent faster. And, BlackBerry and Symbian users with the plug-in installed search 20 percent more than those without it.

We saw something similar after we launched an updated interface for Gmail on the iPhone during MacWorld earlier this year. Lots of iPhone users tried the new interface (hence the bump in Gmail pageviews between January and February), but they didn't stick around like we hoped they would. Over the course of the next few weeks, we made some tweaks to drastically improve the speed of the product, and Gmail pageviews on the iPhone not only stabilized, but began to rise, as the graph below shows:
This link between increased usage and a faster user experience -- be it search or mobile Gmail -- reinforces something we at Google have known for a long time: Fast is better than slow. With mobile applications, we're seeing that fast is much better than slow. Although this may seem pretty intuitive, it's always nice to see new data backing this up. Moving forward, we'll continue to focus on bringing you the fastest and most compelling mobile experiences that we can. So stay tuned!

Fast tip: one-click access to Google mobile applications on your phone

Wednesday, March 12, 2008 | 7:40 AM

I've heard it said that user interfaces are measured in "hurts." Here at Google we like things to be as painless as possible. That's why we're happy to share a little-known feature of many phones that allows you to launch your favorite app (hopefully Google Maps!) with the press of a button.

Buried in the settings menu of many phones is the option to configure "convenience keys" (or "sidekeys," or "shortcuts," depending on the device). Convenience keys let you configure a physical key, usually on the side of your phone, to instantly launch whatever application you choose. For instance, here are some instructions for how to configure a BlackBerry, Blackjack, and Nokia N95 for one-click access to Google Maps for mobile:

BlackBerry 8800: Go to Options->Screen/Keyboard->Convenience Key -> select 'Google Maps'
Samsung BlackJack: Select 'Settings' icon ->More ->Key settings ->Side key settings ->Select 'Google Maps'
Nokia N95: Press the 'Menu' button ->Tools ->Settings ->Personalization ->Standby mode ->Shortcuts ->Left/Right selection key -> Select 'Google Maps'

In the video below Steve Lee and I show you how to set up these quick access keys. Be sure to catch our death-defying duel at the end of the video, where one of us bites the dust while the other hurls obscure movie references.

Finally, if you use shortcut keys on other phones please submit a comment below so that others can give them a try.

Shifting Google Gears to mobile

Monday, March 3, 2008 | 10:51 PM

Ever use a mobile web application and suddenly lose your cell connection? That's happened to me many times. If you've shared my pain, you'll be excited to know that we've launched Google Gears for mobile, which lets users access Gears-enabled mobile web apps offline. Initially available for Internet Explorer Mobile on Windows Mobile 5 and 6 devices, mobile web app developers have already started integrating Gears for mobile into their online services.

Take Zoho and Buxfer, for example: Zoho is a powerful suite of web-based productivity applications, while Buxfer is an innovative personal finance web application that helps you track your money. With Google Gears for mobile integrated into mobile Zoho and Buxfer, you can now access these web applications even when your phone is disconnected from the mobile web. Stuck on a plane? No problem — you can still read your docs on your mobile with Zoho Writer Mobile offline. Want to buy that new plasma TV, but can't remember how much is in your account? Check your balance with Buxfer's mobile web application, even if there is no cell phone signal. Try them out on your Windows Mobile 6 device by going to or

When you first access mobile Buxfer or Zoho Writer on your Windows Mobile device and go offline, you will be asked to install Google Gears for mobile. Once installed, Gears sits happily on your phone helping you stay connected to your data -- even when you lose your network connection.

If you're a developer who's interested in creating mobile web applications using Google Gears for mobile you can find out more information on our developer site. Finally, if you're not a Windows Mobile user, stay tuned -- we're working to roll out Google Gears for other platforms with capable web browsers, including Android.