You Google, but do you iGoogle?

by Louellen Coker on June 18, 2008

Google, for all its search engine fire power, has come a little late to personalization of the user’s Web experience. Late though it was, iGoogle offers its users the potential for an ever-expanding personalization of their Web experience. Whether used for personal or business purposes, iGoogle will undoubtedly become as ingrained in our web experiences as it’s older brother, Google.

The concept for iGoogle came about, partly through Google’s acquisition of Sep Kamvar’s search company (Kaltix) in 2003. His theories and the technology he brought to Google are the core of its personalization efforts. Kamvar is now Google’s Personalization Technical Lead.

In 2004, Google’s VP of Search Products & User Experience, Marissa Mayer, challenged her department to create a mock-up of what they thought Google would look like two years out. By May 2005, users had the option of using Google IG. Earlier this year, iGoogle became the Google personalized Web page.

Greg Sterling, quoted Mayer in his May 2007 entry in the Search Engine Land blog, when she characterized Google personalization as “one of the biggest relevance advances in the past few years.” She added that “personalization doesn’t affect all results, but when it does it makes results dramatically better.”

To receive optimum personalization—even down to the results of search query—the user must be logged in. Once logged in, users can enjoy localized searches and turn a generic home page into something that is pretty cool.

I discovered iGoogle almost by accident when doing some Search Engine Optimization training on www.lynda.com. You can find it by browsing to www.google.com and clicking on the iGoogle link in the upper right corner of the page (Figure 1).

Google Home Page

Figure 1. Google Home page

Once I got set up, it didn’t take me long to latch on to all the cool aspects of personalizing my Web experience! And I have to say, I’ve accumulated a group of gadgets and tabbed pages that make my work life easier. The theme I have on my primary tab, has just enough whimsy to make me smile regardless of the stress factors that are floating around me. Here’s what my iGoogle page (Figure 2) looks like as I write:

Figure 2. iGoogle Home page

I’ve been able to speed up my work processes tremendously, and the community possibilities have helped to solve some of the collaboration difficulties we’ve had in my office. In fact, it was so helpful that my husband’s office now uses it. To follow is how iGoogle works for me. The cool thing about iGoogle is that your experience will be as unique as you are.

1. Personalized Themes and Tabs

iGoogle offers six themes that change throughout the day and night. As you can see, from the screen shot, I should be getting ready to go to bed. In about half an hour, my little buddies will be eating s’mores. Their activities even change based on my local weather! (I can’t wait to see them in a snowball fight!)

A little more practical, I really enjoy being able to set up as many tabs as I want and load them up with different gadgets that I want or need. I can arrange them in any order that I want and go back and forth as I feel the need. Minimize and optimize as I choose.

2. Google Bookmarks

Just as many of you, I have a long list of favorite Web sites that I go to for work and for fun. As a Web developer, I’m constantly switching from one browser to another throughout the day. I must say, it’s pretty near impossible to have all my Favorites updated in every browser. The Google bookmark gadget lets me not only collect my Favorites, it also lets me specify keywords, so my favorite will show up in more than one place. For example, Brickhouse Gym, a site I developed as well as where I work out, shows up in my “Client Sites” and “Workout” categories. The best thing, all my Favorites are available no matter what browser or computer I’m using anywhere in the world.

3. Google Reader

I struggle with WAY too many emails every day, and signing up to be notified by e-mail of sites I want to keep up with, is well, pretty daunting. I forget to go to the RSS feed pages and get so far behind on what’s new that I give up. With Google reader, I get the headline of all the blogs I’ve signed up for, and when I hover over it with my mouse, it pops up with either a preview or the full copy. I can decide from there what I want to do. It’s great! I don’t forget about the blogs, and I can quickly go through them. And better yet, I don’t get e-mail reminders to go look at a new blog posting!

4. Google Talk and Sticky Note

I’ve got my instant messenger up any time I’m logged in. And if I need to leave myself a note about something, I just key it in.

5. Local Weather

There’s not much to say about this, as it’s pretty self-explanatory. I can keep up with the weather anywhere. Asking about the weather at my client’s locale does seem to break the ice from time to time, and when getting ready to travel, I know what to pack.

6. Google Notebook

Google notebook vies for top honors in my world with bookmarks and a reader. I’ve got several different notebooks that I keep notes in. The best thing about it is that I share one with my husband, which helps us keep up with each other. I share another with my girlfriends. And, the big winner, I share one with everyone in my office where we can keep each other updated on our different projects. When I’m out of the office, I can go straight there to answer questions without having to wade through hundreds of e-mail.

7. Google Docs

I discovered this feature out of necessity. I had a client who was traveling and was unable to get Internet connectivity. As fate would have it, we were close to a deadline and sharing files was a necessity. Through Google docs, I was able to upload my Word and Excel files, and then invite her to share them with me. She was the only one who could see them, and we were able to do our edits in a timely manner. That feature kept the project on track. While it’s not the BEST way to collaborate, I will say it sure is an excellent contingency plan, and I will definitely keep that little trick up my sleeve.

I have no doubt that I could wax on indefinitely about how cool iGoogle is, but just as I promised earlier, it’s time for me to go have some s’mores!

Google PM

Figure 3. Google Screen at night

This article by Louellen S. Coker of Content Solutions appeared in the November 2007 issue of Technically Write, the STC Lone Star Community’s newsletter.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: