Interview: How the Lucidchart Team Integrated Google Drive Into Their App

Last summer, Apple started changing the state of the art for iOS apps with iCloud, a service that, for the most part, seamlessly syncs data from your apps between your devices. It made iOS devices and Macs feel more connected, without users having to create new accounts and make sure everything stayed synced. This summer, Google’s changing the state of the art for web apps with Google Drive, which could easily change what we expect of web apps in the same way.

The Lucidchart team has always been quick to add new features to their impressive online charting and diagraming app, and they continued the tradition by being one of the first major web apps to offer Google Drive integration after its launch. We got a chance to talk with the Lucidchart team about how they integrated Drive into their app, so keep reading after the break to hear their thoughts on Google Drive and the future of web apps.

Could you explain quickly how LucidChart’s Google Drive integration works? If, say, users sync their charts to Drive, can they open them in a native app on their computer?

This is probably best explained by the quick overview video we put together:

You can also try out Lucidchart and get a feel for how its Google Drive integration works by installing Lucidchart from the Chrome Web Store.

Had you considered adding integration with other online storage services before Google Drive?

We had actually been interested in integrating into the Google Docs list for years and customers were constantly seeking that deeper integration with Google … but that functionality just didn’t exist yet. We hadn’t seriously considered integration with other storage services yet because (1) we weren’t hearing the requests from customers and (2) integrating for the sake of storage itself wasn’t particularly compelling.

Would you consider adding multiple cloud storage options to LucidChart, such as Dropbox integration?

The unique feature of Google Drive is that it also serves as a platform for third-party apps like Lucidchart so the functionality extends far beyond just storage. Though Dropbox has yet to develop something similar, Box could be an interesting integration down the road as it continues to build out its ecosystem of apps. Box’s focus on business also aligns well with Lucidchart’s target market.

What was the most difficult aspect of integrating with Google Drive?

To be honest, it was a relatively straightforward integration. Part of that was because we had spent years thinking about how we would want to integrate if/when that became available, but also because the Google Drive team did a phenomenal job. I think the Drive team also selected launch partners that they knew would see the potential of the platform and not sweat the minor bumps in the road along the way.

Google Drive integration makes LucidChart feel like another Google Docs app. Do you worry about Google launching a competing service, or that users will think you’re already a Google app and not stay loyal?

We believe that by making Lucidchart more easily accessible, customers will use it more frequently. Increased usage will build loyalty to Lucidchart rather than having any negative impact. As customers become more accustomed to Drive and more apps integrate, we don’t think there will be any confusion that it’s a third-party app.

Regarding Google launching a competing service, I think the answer is that Google can’t do everything. Instead, I believe it’s a smart move to build powerful platforms so that users can have the seamless access to apps that they need without Google having to build them all.

LucidChart already had sharing features built-in. How will Google Drive’s built-in sharing options affect that?

Users are now given the option to share through Lucidchart’s sharing mechanism and/or Drive’s sharing mechanism. While the lists of collaborators don’t currently integrate with each other, we hope this functionality is coming down the road to make it a cleaner experience.

What do you think Google Drive means for web apps going forward?

There’s no question that Drive cements Google’s status as a ‘go-to’ platform for web apps. Hundreds of millions of users literally spend the majority of their waking hours in Google’s ecosystem – communicating through Gmail and Chat, creating content in Docs/Drive, planning their life with Calendar, etc. Offering your app in a seamless way to those users is a no-brainer for many web apps.

The LucidChart team has done a great job adding new features to the app, including touch support on the iPad and Visio import. How do you prioritize new features you want to add to the app?

We really value customer feedback and appreciate hearing from our users. For more ‘incremental’ features to Lucidchart, the prioritization is driven by the frequency and intensity of customer requests. For more significant changes, there may not always be demand for it yet because users don’t know what they’re missing! So there’s a lot of internal innovation going on at Lucidchart to make sure we are offering our customers the best possible experience.

Could you share any upcoming LucidChart features? What’s next for your app?

Lots of great features are on the way. You mentioned Visio import above – one of the exciting things coming shortly is the ability to also import Visio stencils which will open up a lot of possibilities for our users. While we may not be able to offer native shape libraries that cover every niche need, the ability to import and share these stencils will satisfy a lot of those custom needs.

And that’s all for today.

We’d like to extend a special thanks to the Lucidchart team, and especially Dave Grow for reaching out to us and taking the time to let us poke their brains about working with Google Drive. Lucidchart is a great example of how advanced web apps can be today, and we continue to be excited about the new features and integrations they add to it.