I would say that the two services I’m bashing in my series here are successful because they allow for ppl to easily connect with one another…except I would say it is far from easy. Methinks it is a combination of content + features, and not well executed features, but simply the fact that those features exist. And most of all that those features appeal to the biggest net demographic: teenagers.
livejournal: centralized and free service, friends-only posts, friends lists, community LJ’s. Most teenagers are not so interested in being part of some global bullshit conversation mostly comprised of geeks and digerati (i.e. non-ugly geeks). They want a way to communicate with their friends that prevents their mothers and ex-boyfriends from reading along. Out of the gate, LJ nailed the concept that ppl want tools to share life with the people they are already in community with. Because hazardous UI’s are not such a big deal to teenagers, the young being more adaptable etc., the features and eventual demographic critical mass won.
myspace: music. I attribute most of myspace’s success with their integration of a music player. That got bands on there. Who listens to and buys the most music etc? Again, a critical mass of the right demo was key. Doesn’t matter that the thing is a total mess and has blinking 400x400 punch the monkey ads in the middle of every page. Doesn’t. Fucking. Matter.
I’m not really saying design doesn’t matter, I’m just saying that design doesn’t matter. It’s down the list. First you have to be satisfying some need, then if social factors are involved you need to quickly get to a critical mass. That’s it. Screw the interface design.
I’m being my own devil’s advocate here. Because a superior UI is one of our selling points for SWIM. I’m purposefully deconstructing. Because personally, I can’t stand most of the web-based UI’s in existence (even the ones the digerati have fallen in love with). They frustrate the heyZeus out of me. But I’m obviously in the minority, because the ones that I like the least are the most popular (and still I use LJ all the time). As someone trying to carve out a space in these markets, I need to become more objective about these issues.
This wasn’t very conclusion-y. I’m actually not really trying to carve out space in these markets. I’ve known that doing consumer software, particularly web-based software, is about as fun as talking theology with an evangelical, or banging one’s head against a brick wall, etc. Despite appearances, we (the collective we, IR and under[de] and whomever else) have been focusing primarily on specific markets where our applications could be used to the greatest benefit. The great cloud of internet users (read: teenagers, geeks, and retirees) is a shit market. This is what/where it gets you: