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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Google Acquires SketchUp

About a year or so back I fell in love with an application.

At the time I had been pondering what should the ideal user interface prototyping tool look like. In my mind what I wanted was a way to doodle ideas and make those ideas come alive. Once alive I felt I should be able to quickly re-arrange the sketches and interact with them or allow users to interact with them.

The key thought was I don't want to burdern this interface sketching tool with requirements generation or code generation. I just want it for quick ideation. And I would like it to be approachable to those who are normally tool adverse.

In researching the space (at the time I had a desire to design, build and produce a product) I stumbled across SketchUp.

SketchUp was the perfect example of what I was struggling to envision. SketchUp was created by a garage startup to go up against the likes of AutoCAD. Its mission was to bring 3D sketching to the masses. I remember the first time I played with my son, who was 7 at the time, was having a little timeout on the bed next to where I was working. I heard a "WHOA, Dad that's cooool. Can I play with that?" Now I thought geez this is an awesome serious tool. Real architecture, landscaping, even game design can be done with this sketching tool and here my son who is only 7 sees it as a fun. And after his timeout, yes even he could do some cool stuff with it.

I remember having a conversation last year at the IA Summit in Montreal with Jesse James Garrett about this tool. At the time I was trying to gauge the need for a tool like this. He remarked that he had heard Alan Cooper talking about it being a great example of wonderful application design.

I forget where I read about it, but in an article describing how this little company (@lastSoftware) was able to withstand even AutoCAD's response, they said the real secret to SketchUp's success is "it is just a blast to use!"

And today that application I fell in love with just joined the ranks of Google. Congratulations Google! I am wondering what's cooking with MeasureMap (another favorite of mine), Writely and SketchUp joining the fold.

BTW, I still would love to see a SketchUp for UI prototyping. Wish I had time to work on it. Maybe someone will catch the vision.


Ro said...

Good job also on your talk this past Monday (Mar. 13) in NYC (Real-World Ajax). I wish they would have given you all the time you needed to go through all your slides!

Insightful, nonetheless!

Forrester Footnotes said...

Sketchup does look neat. I share your desire for a good, solid sketching tool for web designs. I've attempted to use Visio for mocking up windows programs in the past, and Illustrator for web. But a tool that would allow creating templates or reusable widgets that match the designs that you've done for clients would be extremely useful.