A. Marcus (Ed.): DUXU/HCII 2013, Part II, LNCS 8013, pp. 508–517, 2013.
© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013
Interactive Doodles: A Comparative Analysis
of the Usability and Playability of Google Trademark
Games between 2010 and 2012
Breno José Andrade de Carvalho
, Marcelo Márcio Soares
Andre Menezes Marques das Neves
, and Rodrigo Pessoa Medeiros
Course Technology Games Digiais, Catholic University of Pernambuco, Brazil
Post Graduate Program in Design, Federal University of Pernambuco, Brazil
Abstract. By using artistic mutations, called Doodles, Google has been com-
memorating important events and personalities. This fun approach started with
still images, evolved to increasingly complex interactions, and has resulted in
games based on the configurations of its logo. Thus, the company which was
born in the digital world has introduced a new interactive approach to its logo in
cyberspace, thus offering new experiences to the user. This article sets out to
present a comparative analysis of usability and playability of five interactive
Doodles by applying the RITE (Rapid Interation Testing and Evaluation)
approach so as to investigate ergonomic criteria of invitation, suitability,
immediate feedback and user control.
Keywords: Interactive Doodles, Mutated Logo, Google, Game, Playability,
In 1999, from a simple drawing of a person behind the second "o" in the word
Google, the search engine, born in cyberspace, changed its logo in a humorous way to
celebrate important events, which gave rise to the mutations of its logo, better known
(Fig. 1.). What started as a simple joke is now looked forward to by In-
ternet users who access the company´s search page looking for new updates.
Google, in addition to commemorating important events, began developing more
elaborate and complex alterations to its logo to broadcast information of a political,
social and cultural nature all over the world, by means of visual composition, some-
times in stills, sometimes in animation, of the characters of its logo. However, starting
in 2010, Google reinvented a way for its users to interact with their identity. What
hitherto had only been done visually for the user, now has a new approach which
Doodle "consists of changes in the look of the Google logo in order to celebrate holidays,
anniversaries, and the lives of famous artists and scientists" .
Interactive Doodles: A Comparative Analysis of the Usability 509
Fig. 1. A. The Crazy Kid´s birthday; B. Louis Braille’s birthday; C. Pi’s Day; D. Discovery of
the X-Ray; E. Flintstones’ 50
birthday; F. Centenary of Czeslaw Milosz (Poland)
provides the netizen with an immersion experience, interfaced by its own logo based
on manipulating the company's logo. This manipulation enables creative interaction,
thus making it possible for the user to play with the logo.
The aim of this paper is to set out a comparative study of interactive doodles, based
on games released on the company´s search page in 2010 (commemorating 30 years of
Pac-Man) and 2012 (celebrating the London Olympics). Two aspects of the Human-
Computer Interaction in the games were evaluated, viz., the issues of usability and
playability, by means of applying the RITE (Rapid Interation Testing and Evaluation)
approach, to investigate the ergonomic criteria of invitation, suitability, immediate feed-
back and user control. Moreover, factors related to playability were measured such as
the challenge set, the attention required, loss of self-awareness and changing the percep-
tion of time.
2 Doodles: Making the Logo Dynamic so as to Interact with the
Mankind has always used signs to express an idea. This need to demonstrate mean-
ings and information set off a relentless pursuit to develop mechanisms and graphical
and visual elements to transmit the message quickly and efficiently. Brands, at first,
were created with the aim of identifying tools, properties and livestock. Subsequently,
the signs were transformed into symbols and began to signal an attribute of the quality
and reliability of a product .
With the development of trade and increasing competition, institutions began to in-
vest in the design of these signs, of these brand names in search of a unique identity
that would stand out from the others and which their customers could easily identify.
The design of a brand name evolved into a logo so as to create a visual identity,
formed, in most cases, by a configuration of alphanumeric characters (logo), whether
or not tied to a symbol, in addition to signaling a chromatic standard.
Besides identifying products, logos also convey emotions and keep a memory of
moments, thereby serving as a criterion in the choices that people make every
510 B.J.A. de Carvalho et al.
day. According to Strunck , a logo is the intangible sum of a product; its name, its
packaging and price, its history, its reputation and how it is promoted. The logo is
also defined by consumers' impressions about the people who use it; as well as be-
cause of their own professional experience.
Technological advances and the development of mass communications oblige
companies and designers to seek a differential so they may continue to lead the dialo-
gue between the brand and its consumers. According to Purvis  the word Zeitgeist
"means the spirit of the times and refers to trends and characteristics of cultural prefe-
rences was determined." Thus designers need to be connected, incessantly, to social,
political and economic society to express with accuracy the Zeitgeist of their time and
space, building visual symbols that make the most sense for their users.
The technological advance and the development of mass communications obliges
companies and designers to seek a differential so they may continue to lead a dialogue
between the logo and its consumers. According to Purvis  the word Zeitgeist
"means the spirit of the times and refers to trends and cultural preferences that charac-
terize a certain epoch." Thus designers need to be connected, incessantly, to social,
political and economic aspects of society in order to express accurately the Zeitgeist
of their time and space by constructing visual symbols that make the most sense to its
In this context, some designers have constructed logos that are more flexible, dy-
namic, multishaped and multicolored, thereby producing a new discourse so as to
materialize emotions and allure the expectations of the active target public. In a rela-
tionship of humans with visual identity, the static view of a univocal image is trans-
formed into a subjective or open identity that makes it possible for the onlooker to
identify his/her values in the object observed.
In the globalized world connected to cyberspace, companies need the concept of
branding (brand management) to transmit emotions to consumers and entice them to
consume such products and/or services. According to Kreutz and Fernández , a
brand can evoke memories and provoke emotion, and thus maintain a more affective
and lasting relationship with its public, thereby allowing them to have a sentimental
attachment to the brand, by identifying themselves with it.
The logo interacts with consumers starting with the interface presented by graphi-
cal items, namely billboards, packaging, print ads and television commercials. These,
for their part, comprise words, images and signs (the message), signaled by the
company's visual identity. "The logo, graphically speaking, is always presented to the
consumer as a seal in the print and electronic media, a lifeless and passive
Born in the dynamic universe of the internet, Google introduced this concept of a
mutating logo for brand identity in 1999 when it created its first doodle (Fig.2.) to pay
tribute to a festival that took place in Nevada, USA, by adding a mannequin (the icon
of the Burning Man festival) behind the second "o" of the logo. After this experiment,
the home page of the Google search engine began to display more elaborate muta-
tions, and to exploit all the possibilities of the hypermedia environment.
Interactive Doodles: A Comparative Analysis of the Usability 511
Fig. 2. First doodle made by Google
Google doodles (Fig. 3) are the convergence of interactive and non-sequential mul-
ti-media, the fusion of verbal and non-verbal signs with the written text, the audiovi-
sual and computing, i.e., representations of all the matrices of language . In 2010,
the company evolved the interaction of its logo with its users by putting a digital
game in the interface, namely, the doodle commemorating the 30th anniversary of the
Pac-Man game (Fig. 4).
Fig. 3. Vídeo doodle of John Lennon’s 70
birthday, Shown in October 2010
This new approach enabled its users to have a new experience, just by extending
the length of stay on the search engine page, but by triggering a strong emotional and
communicative appeal. According to the website Olhar Digital (Digital Look) , as
there were 500 million views on the day, this was one of the most accessed doodles.
Fig. 4. Doodle for the 30
anniversary of the launch of Pac-Man. Shown in May 2010
For Marc Gobé , companies must not only reject conventions, but must also in-
stitutionalize innovation, improvisation and imagination in their discourse. "To hu-
manize the logo so that it is reflected in people is crucial to 'bringing to life' the
emotions which move the passion of a company’s workforce as well as clients’
As it had positive feedback from its users, Google began to develop some doodles
based on games to convey, in a playful way, information and feelings. In 2012, four
512 B.J.A. de Carvalho et al.
different sports (hurdling, football, basketball and canoeing) were launched to cele-
brate the London Olympics (Fig. 5.). These mutant logos require a process of
differentiated creation and to pay attention to aspects of usability and playability. For
Laitinen , on applying heuristic tests of "usability in games, it is common to come
across problems in game interfaces such as menus, which are complicated to use,
displays the meanings of which are unclear and controls that are difficult to learn".
Fig. 5. Doodles of the London Olympics. A. Hurdles; B. Basket-ball; C. Canoeing; D. Football.
Shown in August 2012
Fig. 6. Football Doodles. The interaction screen is presented. Shown in August 2012
3 Methodology Used for the Test of Usability and Playability
According to Cybis , simply put. the usability of a game is about not presenting
challenges not related to the game so that the player is focused only on having fun,
viz., nothing in the interface apart from the ergonomic criteria that may make the
player lose the focus of his/her objective in the game. The concept of playability is
Interactive Doodles: A Comparative Analysis of the Usability 513
about the player undergoing these challenges with the game while having fun, and
understanding the increase in the difficulty and changes of levels.
It is a challenge to conduct a test that is proposed to test both usability as well as
playability, mainly because there are no methods that span the two concepts together.
Furthermore, according to the author, the focus of the ergonomic interventions
changes in games because it is not about developing interfaces that directly and objec-
tively support the performance of a user’s given task . According to Cybis , the
objective is to offer the right number of challenges in an immersive environment.
Thus it can be said that in games both issues of usability and those of playability also
contribute to the end-user’s experience.
Therefore, this study used some guidelines from the RITE (Rapid Interation Testing
and Evaluation) approach, the evolutionary assessment method described by Medlock et
al  who propose a freedom to change the format of the test during interviews with
users. That is, instead of conducting only one range of tests, the prototype, process
and/or questions may be modified and improved for later tests. Fig 7 shows the differ-
ence of this method compared with the traditional method for a usability test.
Fig. 7. RITE testing versus “Standard” Usability Testing, based on 
10 people were selected from among staff and students of the Center for Commu-
nication of the Catholic University of Pernambuco in order to conduct the tests, of
whom 8 were men and 2 women aged between 20 and 34 years old, among whom
only one user was not familiar with the Doodles. These people had had different expe-
rience of using a computer and levels of web browsing that ranges from basic to ad-
vanced, which may well generate a range of interesting results for analysis.
The objective of the test was, in a single session with the user, to identify good
practice and/or misuse of some ergonomic criteria regarding the game interface.
Another goal was also to identify elements that might describe that this Google
514 B.J.A. de Carvalho et al.
experience had good or bad playability. Four doodles from the London Olympics and
the Pac-Man doodle were chosen for the tests.
Three types of sessions were held (these sessions were different because within the
testing process, some flaws were identified and could be corrected and adjusted using
the RITE methodology): remote sessions; sessions with users in their work environ-
ment; and sessions with users in the laboratory of the institution with an interview that
was more focused on playability.
The first two sessions took place remotely using an online questionnaire that
people responded to as they interacted with the games. Two of the ten users were
monitored in real time using a voice system by means of which they also commented
aloud on what was happening during the experience of each game. The third and
fourth users had their evaluation conducted in their work environment, with a modera-
tor by their side, while a camera filmed their reactions and there was a system for
identifying their navigation on the screen. The six remaining users were monitored by
a moderator and a camera in the laboratory of the institution for a face-to-face inter-
view in which they performed tasks proposed within the environment studied so as to
complete the actions in the game and/or elements of the interface where the user had
interaction; an important item was that the user could often be asked with this more
controlled test about playability, from which interesting aspects about this Google
experiment were identified.
Only one person did not know the Doodle platform and the other nine found it by
browsing on the Google site or because friends had recommended it. Three users
commented that they were familiar with the doodles because friends on social net-
works had recommended them.
First, the difficulties in each of the games tested will be described and then the
most important points found will be compared.
In Doodle Athletics, users had no difficulty in understanding how to start the inte-
raction with the game by using the arrow keys and the space bar, as set out in the
tutorial interface. Only one person did not manage to finish the challenge set. Two
people found the experience with the very easy; seven people found it easy and one
found it difficult. A piece of datum important to comment on was that the action of
clicking on the buttons quickly and repeatedly to make the character run became tir-
ing for 4 of the users tested.
As to Doodle basketball, all users understood how to start the game. The metaphor
of the button to start was well applied in this context. Eight users completed the task
set by the game. All users commented that the dynamics of holding the spacebar
down to make the basketball gain force when thrown at the basket is tiring. Some
users made the comment that their fingers hurt during this process. Another important
finding was that users did not have feedback on what force they using to make the
ball go farther or less far so as to get the pitch right.
Interactive Doodles: A Comparative Analysis of the Usability 515
In the game of canoeing all users managed to start the game quickly. However, one
point that was criticized was that they did not know the times of other friends in order
to see how good or bad they were at the interaction. Six users commented that they
did not know how to control the canoe more easily, thus making it difficult for them
to control the direction as they wished. Nor was there any feedback during the game
when they made a mistake because they had not passed by an item.
In Doodle soccer, all users understood how to start the game. However, only one
quickly managed to understand the dynamics of how to start the interaction with the
character. Despite this, only 2 users commented that the game was difficult. Eight
users commented that playability was flawed and that there was need to increase the
difficulty level and to create other levels.
With the Pac-Man doodle this was a bit different: no users had any difficulty in
getting started and they also quickly understood the dynamics of playability, and 8 of
the 10 users considered this to be very easy. The two users who did not find it easy
had had no interaction with the Pac-Man on another console such as Atari.
According to the tests, in general, the experience of using the Doodle as a platform
for a game is surprising. However, it is further noted that playability is deficient. Only
in the case of Pac-Man were different levels and stages identified. All the other games
of the London Olympics had only one way and only one stage to be played.
As to the ergonomic criteria, the one most commented on was user control because
the possibilities of interaction with games are minimal and users would like greater
freedom to choose elements and improve their performance at the game. In basketball
Doodle, users commented most on the control via the space key being tiring and on
their not understanding the feedback on increasing ball speed. In Doodle canoeing,
the possible keys for interaction with the game confuse players, so although they do
understand well the signs and tips on how to start, this confusion makes it difficult for
them to achieve a better performance. It was in this Doodle that that the lack of a
better leveling of the stages was noted. It clearly could have two or three phases with
levels of progressive difficulty.
In the ergonomic criterion of invitation, there were few occurrences of error on
starting the interaction with the game, concentrated, in the case of Pac-Man, where
the form of initial interaction comes about on clicking the image and not on a button.
From the point of view of immediate feedback, the lack of a timer or scoring system
in 2 of the 4 Doodles of the London Olympics 2012 made users’ interaction with the
games difficult. This very often reduced their wish to play and merely encouraged
users to finish the task proposed. Incidentally, this was one of the most recurrent criti-
cisms, namely, users would like to spend more time interacting with the game and,
moreover, to see what the ranking of their friends with regard to Google is.
From the point of view of the playability, the Doodles of the London Olympics
have a serious problem related to the value of something in the game and the players'
motivations. An example of this problem is that there are many comments about the
scoring not opening up new possibilities for games, and thus the experience ends in an
ephemeral process of playability. That is, there are almost no rewards for the effort
process on performing the activity of finishing the stage or completing the task
requested. In the case of Pac-Man the fact that there are some stages opened up
516 B.J.A. de Carvalho et al.
possibilities for the user to build empathy with the game and to want to continue the
gameplay to the end. Even though the speed added to the elements is something that
makes experiencing it on the website brief.
5 Final Remarks
Since 2010, Google has launched a new phase in the changing configuration of its
logo. The interaction goes beyond simply looking and listening, to an immersion in
the fun learning universe of the game, which leads some users to lose their way in
time and space, as they forget, in some cases, the real objective of accessing the web
page of the search engine. This makes it possible not only that the user will remain
longer on the company´s homepage but also that the trademark will be broadcast in
other cyberspace environments such as news portals and social networks.
It is noticeable that these interactive Doodles created by Google are still experi-
mental initiatives as they use their own trademark to build platforms which have
games on them in cyberspace. Even so, this opens up a path to be explored in the
construction of games with a view to offering quick and simple experiences.
Just like Cybis  who demonstrates the research on video games and expe-
riences that sprout from this universe, this leads researchers on usability to step out-
side a certain comfort zone by showing that concern only at the interface with the user
is not enough to understand what a good experience of using the game is.
As a result of the tests conducted in the study, it is apparent that users had more
empathy with the Pac-Man game because it has other phases and levels of difficulty.
However, the doodles of the Olympic Games did not provide the same experience for
users, whether through lack of other steps in the games or because they did not have
some elements of motivation, a timer or a scoring system.
The knowledge made available and the existing techniques and tools to assess usa-
bility aspects and playability together need to advance and improve in order to meas-
ure and understand other important aspects for the user’s experience, such as getting
rid of worries and frustrations (and assimilating concerns and frustrations of the
games sector), not investigated in this study.
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