Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New for Google Shared Spaces: Improved Interface, Inbox, Chrome Extension, & Embedding

Since launching Google Shared Spaces in Labs less than a month ago, we've been making fast iterations on the app - pushing an average of one new release each day.

We purposefully launched Shared Spaces with the bare minimum set of features, so that we could listen to users and developers about what features they most want and need in order to benefit from this app, then implement the most desired features.

Here's a rundown of the improvements we've made - try them out and let us know what you think!

Better, Resizeable Interface

We worked with Cameron Adams, the user interface designer behind Google Wave and cool projects like VisibleTweets, to come up with a sleeker interface for Shared Spaces. We also drew a lot of inspiration from EtherPad, a similar tool for real-time textual collaboration.

Besides subtle style changes, the new interface moves the chat to the right-hand side and adds a full screen button, so users can work on wider width gadgets like the popular ConceptDraw MindWave mind mapping tool.

(For those of you who hadn't seen it, here's a screenshot of the old interface.)


We launched with no way of keeping track of your spaces, figuring users could bookmark the ones they were interested in, a la Etherpad. But users (rightly) didn't want to have to worry about keeping track of their space URLs, they wanted to have a list of all their spaces in one place.

At the same time as the interface redesign, we added a universal header with your login information and a "My Spaces" link. That takes you to a list of your most recently modified spaces, with the option to view all of them and the ability to hide any of them. We know it's not a full-featured inbox like GMail's, but we think it's a sufficient way for users to manage their spaces while we build out other features.

Chrome Extension

Personally, I love to use Chrome extensions as a way to keep tabs on what's happening in my favorite communication tools without actually having to open them in a new window - Twitter, GMail, Wave, etc.

So, we created a Chrome extension that both gives you a mini view of the gallery for quick space creation and a list of your most recently modified spaces. When someone modifies a space that you're on, the extension badge changes to let you know.


We live in a web where everyone, from developers to users, want to be able to mash their favorite products together. Our users asked us for the ability to embed their spaces in their webpages, on their Google Sites, and in iGoogle.

For the typical case of embedding on a webpage, we launched an embed wizard that lets you tick some options and then generate a JavaScript code snippet (similar to Google Web Elements). For the Google properties (where JavaScript isn't allowed, but gadgets are), we automatically generate a gadget for each space, and we give users the URL of the gadget that they can then insert in their site or dashboard. For either method, users can click "Embed" in the space to get started.

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