Click discovers how important aesthetics are to Google. We sit down with the Web's creator. Plus, how to give your mobile the elixir of life. Includes tech news and web roundup.
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Such beauty. Such simplicity. The colours. The textures.
It's funny what some folk find attractive, isn't it?
This week, Click asks Google if simple really is best or beautiful.
We'll have an essential guide to keeping your smartphone alive
just that little bit longer.
And the inventor of the worldwide web tells us
what's next for the creation that changed the world.
All that plus the latest tech news and the way to make yourself
a nice place on the web in just 15 minutes in Webscape.
Welcome to Click, I'm Spencer Kelly.
Good design is often a matter of personal taste.
For some, it's all about having loads of colour and lots of detail.
But sometimes, especially when it comes to technology,
it seems simple and sleek is best.
Take Apple, for example,
long seen as the standard bearer for well executed design principles.
But having set the bar,
it's now inspiring others to raise their game.
We sent Sumi Das to Google's HQ to join it on a design-inspired
journey of its own.
This is Google's homepage circa 1998.
The look was utilitarian and far from visually stunning.
This is what Google looks like today.
In recent months, the company has introduced products that
are the result of a major makeover that began a couple of years ago.
It was actually baked into our DNA that our products were very
simple at heart and very easy to use.
I think Google Search is a great example of that.
But over time,
we realised we were missing an important part of the experience
of a great product, a great design, and that's the beauty part of it.
In 2011, when Larry Page became CEO, he tasked designers with overhauling
Google's look, starting with Gmail, Search, Maps and Google+,
all of which he wanted redesigned within a few months.
The project was dubbed Kennedy,
after the US President known for his ambitious ideas.
Unlike Apple, Google has no single gatekeeper overseeing
design across the company, so it took a different tack.
We basically matured in our design process.
There was a great deal more collaboration across the company,
across design teams.
Designers played with typography, white space,
colour and imagery to create a clean, modern and elegant feel.
The changes were striking.
Perhaps the best example of Kennedy design principles is Google Now,
a feature added to Search that attempts to anticipate your needs.
So you don't have to ask every time,
"Google, what's the traffic like to work?"
Google knows when you go to work
and it's able to offer that to you spontaneously.
Of course, that doesn't go over well with privacy hawks and while Google
now promises a lot, the product can be inconsistent, especially on iOS.
What it does well though is present information clearly and with style.
It also represents a departure from Google's typical design process.
To create Now, designers from all over Google locked themselves in a
war room, then sketched and iterated until they settled on a vision.
Here you can see some of the range of exploration that we did
and the attention to detail that we were paying.
On the left, you have one that really goes for very
kind of lofted and bubbly kind of character to the card.
On the right, we have another extreme.
It kind of takes a very edgy style,
breaking apart into these different shapes.
Neither of these felt like they were really centre on for what
we wanted the future of Google to be, but again,
unless you draw them, you're not going to know.
Google's Maps app for iOS embraces the new design ideas,
keeping the map front and centre.
We focused on making the map app as simple as possible.
The map goes edge to edge on the screen
and there are very few elements on top and hardly any menus.
Buttons are minimal.
Instead, gestures help you navigate around and get information.
Certainly, project Kennedy has made a mark,
but in many ways, it's only the start.
Historically, Google has been an engineering-centric place.
Making the transition to a company that also focuses on design
isn't going to happen overnight.
Yes, designers are collaborating more,
but even Google concedes they don't always agree.
There's a little bit of a trade-off.
If we want to move fast, if we want to create great products but
also get them into people's hands quickly,
we can't always necessarily make sure that every single thing
is completely totally, you know, consistent across the board.
Kristian Simsarian heads the Interaction Design department
at California College of the Arts. He says for design to flourish,
Google must sort out those organisational issues.
People need to be together and they need to be seeing each other's work.
And it's not just the consumer seeing everyone's work, but actually
inside a large organisation, it's hard to see each other's work.
Simsarian points to Gmail's priority inbox feature as an example.
On the web, priority inbox works one way. On Android,
it works another way and on iOS, it works a third way.
You would think they would just use the same algorithm for all
of them, but there must be some organisational reason why that's not the case.
Google may also need to rethink a belief it holds rather dear.
Every decision at Google is driven by data.
Products are constantly analysed and revised,
but how do you measure something as subjective as design?
In usability labs, users try out products,
while Google employees observe whether or not the information
they wanted was found easily and quickly.
Until the leadership itself can take away their security
blanket of quantitative results and actually go with what they
believe is actually better, they're going to have some stumbling.
By its own admission, Google is on a design journey.
One it hasn't completed. Though it has good reason to continue.
The pressure has never been so high for tech companies to turn out
products that are beautiful, both at function and form.
Sumi Das on Google's latest design ethic.
Next up, a small but perfectly formed bundle of tech news.
Twitter has rolled out a new tool to help more people follow
the turbulent events in Egypt.
Many users were able to follow the tweets of the former president,
Mohamed Morsi, even as he was ousted from power by the military,
thanks to a new Bing-powered automated translation tool
that converted his tweets on the fly from Arabic to English.
Twitter said it trialled the service on high profile
accounts in Egypt, so people around the world can better understand
and keep up with what's happening there.
A new smartphone operating system has been released.
Firefox OS has been made available first in cheap Telefonica
handsets in Spain.
It uses apps based on the web's open HTML 5 standards
and will try to break the stranglehold of Android
and iOS, and we'll be talking more about so-called web apps
to the web's inventor later in the show.
There's been a backlash online to a new idea for train
windows in Germany. An ad agency wants to use them
to silently advertise to passengers who lean against them.
The concept uses bone conduction technology to transmit
vibrations to the inner ear.
The idea was originally shown off at
the International Festival of Creativity in Cannes last month.
But opponents to the move have suggested
it's a violation of a human right to rest.
a duck in Tennessee can walk again thanks to its new 3D printed leg.
Born with his left foot turned backwards,
Buttercup could only hobble before receiving the silicone prosthetic.
His carers at Feathered Angels Sanctuary
appealed to the 3D printing company NovaCopy for help
and it donated its services by replicating the duck's sister's leg.
Now, it's late afternoon, you whip out your smartphone
and you see you've only got 15% battery left. Is that you?
It's me at least once a week. Now, it goes without saying that you need to kill all
the parts of the system that you're not using, quit the applications running in the background,
turn off Bluetooth, don't use the video camera.
But you still need to get through the rest of your day's
business on the remaining drops of juice you have left.
Should you make phone calls or should you send texts instead?
Should you turn off Wi-Fi?
Well, we put together a Click essential guide to
keeping your smartphone alive just that little bit longer.
We'll start with the biggest guzzler of them all, the screen.
It's overwhelmingly the most power-hungry part of your device,
on some phones, draining your battery as fast
as your processor does
when it's working at maximum speed.
And that means that it's not just gaming and sat-naving,
but simple browsing and typing which consume an awful lot of power,
simply because the screen stays on the whole time.
So it makes sense that a great way of saving battery is simply
to turn down the brightness.
LCD screens are particularly bad
because they use a backlight to illuminate the whole display.
OLED screens are more efficient,
as only the pixels that are lit draw power.
And that means if you do have a phone with an OLED screen,
choosing a darker colour scheme will save you power.
Now, the lowest power state you can put your phone into is flight mode.
However, since that switches off all the radios in the device,
it's not actually useful
if you're waiting for that one important call or email.
So should you use Wi-Fi or the mobile network?
Well, that depends what you're planning to do.
As long as you're in range of Wi-Fi, it's often a better option than 3G.
In tests, browsing
and emailing takes much less power over Wi-Fi than 3G
and that's partly because the connection is faster,
so you get more data through in a shorter time.
If you're on a train or in a car, 3G gets even more battery hungry
because it takes extra power to frequently hop between 3G cells.
So if you have a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, time to turn it on.
However, if you're not on the move and you're just waiting for an incoming message, it might be best
to switch Wi-Fi off, as it takes more power to maintain
an idle Wi-Fi connection than a 3G connection.
It's not just sat-nav and maps which burn your phone's GPS receiver.
More and more apps ask your phone where it is
and for that reason, it's best to switch off your GPS
when you're not using it,
lest it gets constantly pinged for information and triangulation.
And on the subject of apps,
free ones are generally more power hungry than paid for ones.
That's because of the ads that they're constantly pulling down.
And finally, here's a surprise.
If you've ever been tempted to send a text instead of making a call
because you thought your message would be transmitted quicker
and you might save battery, well, think again.
Once a phone call has connected,
power consumption on everything apart from the radio drops
right off and crucially, that power hungry display goes dark.
So unless you have lightning fingers,
it turns out that keeping the screen lit to type the text message
actually uses more energy than the transmission of the phone call.
Last month, we spoke to the inventor of the worldwide web.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee told us
how he hopes that the web will inspire charities
and non-governmental organisations to use it more creatively than
they have to date.
In the second part of the interview, he speaks to Richard Taylor
about attempts to control the web and where it's heading next.
In terms of regulation, you've been generally pretty anti-regulation.
Obviously, the idea of open standards,
openness of information on the web, but clearly there must be
areas where you feel that regulation is appropriate, aren't there?
The one end of the scale, there are things which in every country
is a crime, like child pornography, fraud.
That's criminal, yes, it's a crime on the web, as anywhere else
and yes, you have to give the police the power to pursue criminals.
Another end of the scale is areas where it shouldn't be
the case for law,
such as best practices on particular social networking sites and then in
the middle, there's this difficult line where you're thinking, OK.
For example, net neutrality, the question of
does your internet service provide and discriminate?
Or does it just dish out and allow you to connect to anybody?
And generally, internet service providers know they can't discriminate.
If they start to discriminate, they get into trouble. Most countries, it's not a law.
When one internet service provider in Holland did discriminate,
started to stop packets going to one of its competitors, then wham,
they immediately said, "Right, we need a law."
So they immediately went into the process of producing legislation.
If industry behaves, realises there are important principles
and it behaves well, we should be able to do without regulation.
If things go wrong, we should be prepared to go over,
have regulation and legislation.
So you'd be in favour of regulation to try
and enforce net neutrality, some of the most important principles?
I would be in favour of regulation,
unless the industry can come up with it by itself and say,
"Yes, we realise that's an important principle. That's just the way we work."
We talk a lot about web 2.0 at the moment.
When we look ahead, what does web 3.0 look like?
What is the semantic web that we hear sometimes mentioned?
Well, the semantic web, the meaning that
if you go onto a social networking site and you go to a photograph and
you tell the system who is in that photograph
and you actually identify that person very precisely,
you don't just type their name, you say this is that person.
You're telling the machine a piece of data.
You're saying this photograph has got pictures of these people.
And so bit by bit, the machine, the web of data,
is assimilating valuable data, which really helps us.
In web 2.0 what happens is that data is used by the big companies
who have their clouds of data,
but it's not really used optimally by individuals.
What happens in 3.0 is that actually you get much more control over where it's stored,
you get much more control over what happens to it, so that it
becomes, if you like, a re-enabling of the consumer and the citizen.
So is it the idea of being able to infuse meaning?
We're going to have so much data that we ourselves create?
Yes, there's data that we create, so as we move around,
we have gadgets which detect how much exercise we're getting,
we have gadgets which know where we are.
So we've got a lot of health data, which we can measure very easily.
Then there's the data that the hospitals and doctors measure,
where we go there and have a blood test. So they have data about us.
Supposing we can actually bring back the data that other people have
and the shops have, you know, about what we bought.
Imagine you brought back all the information
and you mixed it with all the data other people collected about you,
that's a pretty valuable pot.
'But is the web still as relevant as it once was?
'After all, the internet has gone mobile.
'Most of us are using operating systems like Android and iOS,
'which use a different language from that of the web.
'There are valiant attempts to change that, both Ubuntu
'and Firefox mobile operating systems are launching this year.
'And they do use the same tools and languages as the desktop web.
'Nevertheless, they face an uphill battle to gain
'traction against the established players.'
Do you think some of this suggests that we're maybe moving towards a post-web world?
If you think about the idea of smartphone apps now being
so incredibly popular, people will try
and consume information in a more bite-sized fashion
and a more elegant design-led fashion through apps, rather than the web,
that the web actually perhaps is starting to decrease importance.
I wouldn't say that apps were post-web.
Don't think of them as post-web apps,
think of them as non-web apps. They're non-web.
They don't URLs, you can't bookmark them, you can't tweet them, you can't discuss them.
The information which is in these apps, it's in a backwater.
It's not part of the discourse.
So it might be presented very nicely,
but because it's not part of the discourse,
it's not going to bring tweets, traffic,
it's not going to bring business,
it's not going to be part of the world of human discourse
and absolutely everything that a native app can do,
you're starting to become able to do on a web app.
More and more, every moment, there's people working on the standard
so that when you make a web page, it can behave just like a phone app.
So it can get hold of the fact that you're waving the phone around,
it can get hold of where you are, it can get hold of your local data
and so on, it can connect to your phonebook and so on.
So all the things, absolutely everything that a native app
can do, you're starting to become able to do on a web app.
Richard Taylor in conversation with Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
Now, of course, one of the beauties of the worldwide web is it's
so easy to make a good-looking website these days.
In fact, over 170,000 new sites hit the web every single day.
If you've always wanted your own website,
but you've never got round to it, Kate Russell revisits an old
favourite now that should get you up and running in less than 15 minutes.
Building a website has never been easier
and a good example of this is in the complete
redesign of Weebly's drag and drop interface, which could have
you up and running with your own dedicated website
in under 15 minutes.
Just choose a template style, then drag and drop elements like page
dividers, text, video and images, before clicking to edit the content.
There's even a mobile editor to tweak your design for the mobile web,
which is really important in this increasingly mobile world.
With plain English instructions from start to finish,
the service even has a site planner
to guide you through the initial design
and will help you set up a basic search engine optimisation system,
so people can find you more easily online.
You can even set up shop and start selling products in just a couple
of clicks with the drag and drop e-commerce option,
integrating PayPal and Google Checkout for transactions.
The free account is limited to 5 megabyte of storage for the
content you use, with a premium upgrade if you want more space.
If you're struggling for content to put on your website,
there are loads of neat creative toys online, like VideoScribe,
which can be downloaded from Sparkol.com.
This super simple package lets you make whiteboard style animations,
adding images, text,
voice and music for a really professional finish in minutes.
This software is great for making a promotional or instructional
film for your business, or you could use it to tell a story or
present a really unique slideshow of your holiday snaps.
It's a fresh and modern style of animation that will look
really impressive on your website or blog.
You can upload images from your hard drive, drop box or the web,
setting the line detail and duration for the animation to draw them.
The best results come from the library of images supplied by Sparkol though.
A good selection available for the seven days free trial
and loads more when you upgrade to premium.
You'll need to run through the tutorials to get the most
out of this powerful creation tool, and for making on the move,
there are iPad and Android apps, although they're not free.
When money is tight, it's good to know where the local deals are.
Forlessguides reveal the location of hundreds of discount
vouchers in the city where you stand.
Just fire up the free iPhone app
and take a look around you to see what's on offer in your area.
As well as flagging up all the local deals,
offline access to street and metro maps will help you find your way
easily to them without costly data charges using an online mapping app.
The company is very young,
so there are only a few cities covered so far -
London, New York, Paris, Amsterdam, Edinburgh and San Francisco.
But the developers tell me
there are plans to add more locations as the service takes off.
With the web still buzzing from the fallout of state-sponsored
snooping scandal PRISM,
many people are thinking more seriously about their online privacy.
Search engine DuckDuckGo promises users anonymity
and to bolster their offerings in the wake of PRISM,
this week released a free Android app to compliment their iPhone and web-based search tools.
As well as providing a secret search haven, the app serves up a feed
of popular news stories that you can choose from independent sources.
Kate Russell's Webscape.
And if you missed any of those links or you'd like to watch anything
from this week's programme again, here come all the details you need.
Our website is -
You'll find all of our reports in pictures, video or text form
there, along with the very latest tech news, as it happens.
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That's it for this week though. Thank you very much for watching and we will see you next time.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd