When newly joined engineers at Google gear up to work on products meant for novice internet users, they are told that they have to first “Gorm the Zop” before they can design or build anything. The initial reaction is that of interest and uncertainty. Indeed, it’s gibberish and means nothing until they sit down to “Gorm the Zop” and realize it means everything.
Gorm the Zop is an online exercise that attempts to replicate the journey that novice internet users go through when handed a smartphone for the first time or when they encounter new buttons or alerts on their phones that they have not seen before. It walks an engineer, a designer, or a product manager through a series of steps with an objective to “Gorm the Zop.” Without any description of what action “Gorm” entails, or if it does require action, or what the “Zop” looks like, or if it is actually an object, the engineer would start clicking on things on their screen.
While figuring things out, an “Authorize” button would appear, which had to be clicked to continue but there’s no explanation on what that would do. Every time an action was done that failed to “Gorm the Zop,” there would be boxes popping up with either a warning or a different instruction to do something else. In the end, the objective is eventually accomplished, or it simply ends because it has given up on them.
The activity is Google’s unique way of attempting to put the people behind NBU products in the NIUs shoes. Skilled engineers who went through the simple exercise admitted to getting confused, experiencing hesitations, questioning their knowledge, and sometimes losing their confidence while playing the game. Novice users of smartphones go through all of that and more.