Could Wave sink BaseCamp?
December 21st, 2009 | Industry
Conceptually I love Google Wave. It promises to revolutionize the way we collaborate on projects. It is branded as Email for the 21st Century. It’s hailed as a huge time saver – yet I am beginning to think I’m the only one using it.
When I first heard rumors of what Wave could be I immediately thought of Basecamp; a leading project management tool. Over a year ago I decided not to bring this app into my development process as client adoption of another communication tool would be hard to swing. Wave made me reconsider; Google has a lot of clout, and with Google accounts being so amazingly handy and ubiquitous, a glimmer of hope built up in my little heart that this could be a game changer.
My Google fandom not withstanding, I was rabbidly anxious to get my invite like everyone else. Finally the day came that the invite graced my inbox. The “now what?” moment was not far behind it.
Building anticipation through an invitation system worked really well for Gmail, and makes lots of other sites (dribbble, fffound, etc.) seem very elite and hip. While the hype and mysteriousness is palpable, the experience is ultimately a let down.
Dare I say it? Did Google make a mistake?
My first experience with the app was probably the same as yours: you (or the person who invited you) created a wave and proceeded to write some inane drivel like “So what is this good for?” and threw in the obligatory Map and Yes/No/ Maybe extension. Did you get any further than this?
I have been trying desperately to get Wave to catch on. In addition to no less than five useless “test” waves with various collegues;
- I have created a wave for an upcoming client site I’m developing
- I am taking part in a wave for a site I help manage
- I recently wrote an entire article for SixRevisions.com solely in Wave.
In the six weeks or so since I’ve had my Wave account I have checked my account every single day. Only the Six Revisions wave has seen any action (because the Editor had no choice but to go to the wave to get his story!) The other two waves sit lonely and unused, gathering dust – they show no sign that they’ve been checked by the shared parties.
Google’s name carries the weight it does because their products have a high degree of polish. I get that tingly Google feeling when I see their brilliant attention to detail in action. Remember the first time you noticed Gmail was autosaving your draft? Or the first time the sidebar recommended you add an event to the calendar? I feel this love and care is missing from Wave.
Google made it clear that our Wave accounts are previews, and that this is in no way the final product. That said, I think they have taken the “release early, release often” principle too far this time. Here are some must have features I think were needed to make the initial splash more notable (yup, pun intended).
- The most crucial missing feature is Notifications. The only way to see if your wave has been updated is to go to the Google Wave site. We don’t need new communication tools to monitor, we need them to work with existing tools. Comparable apps like Basecamp at least offer email notifications of updates. I desperately want Wave to be in the upper left navigation of Gmail – before the Calendar. I also need the “unread count” in brackets.Waves are supposed to be email reinvented; but they won’t replace it anytime soon. Email notifications are a no-brainer and are sorely missed from the preview.
- Project Types – Currently a wave is a blank canvas of opportunity – maybe a little too blank. Blank paper is beautiful and perfect for its limitless potential, but sometimes we need lined paper and graph paper.Templates for different Project-types might be a nice touch. I love the way Basecamp does this; the project itself is tabbed with areas for Messages, To-Do lists, Milestones, Chats, and Files. I think currently with Wave you’d have to create multiple waves and label them. This is less intuitive, and is a surefire way to alienate less savvy users.
- Calendar Integration for the aforementioned paradigm of milestones could be an amazing feature to see integrated into the Google Cal. Google has gone out of their way to make the Calendar integrate with other popular calendar clients (This would also act as a handy reminder for people to check their waves more often). Suddenly, Wave becomes a much more dynamic and powerful tool; keeping people organized.The more this new workflow tool can integrate into people’s existing workflow, the better its odds of survival are.
- Internet Rockstar buy-in – They say that 5% of Internet users make 75% of the noise. I have a feeling a lot of that noise comes from web designers and developers. We are creating content and sites for the Internet, by using the Internet. The medium is the message, and the message is the medium. Currently Wave isn’t trending the best with these users. Win the hearts and minds of the industry’s heroes, and you’ll win in the long run.As bizarre as it seems, there are celebrity web designers out there whose words and blogs carry a lot of weight. I’m not suggesting that Google do anything unsavoury to woo them, but making an app for the people who create amazing apps (albeit on a much smaller scale), takes a little more finess and attention.
- Settings – Any settings would be better than this “Under Construction” page. It’s an animated gif away from being classic 90′s facepalm worthy. Other Google properties have some incredibly handy settings. I am certain that a sad percentage of users looked at the settings wave, saw there was nothing there, and will never ever check it again.
There is a lot that could be suggested; a more traditional track-changes, wave Export, Android app, easier hide-comments, and letting my clients use their existing email address (I’m not sure I understand the @googlewave.com address). Still, I know this degree of care and attention is the norm with Google, and I expect Wave could be the game changer I’ve been hoping for.
It doesn’t seem like Basecamp has much to worry about yet.
Join the Conversation
I would love to hear your Google Wave suggestions as well as success or horror stories in the comments.
Incidentally, Wave keeps giving me more invites. If anyone else needs one please share your Gmail address in the comments and ask! I will remove this line when I’m out of invites.