Every website has its own user interface. The interface, among other things, is what differentiates it from other similar sites on the web. The UI will determine whether users get to their destination as fast as possible (you want that), it will determine the rate of conversion on their part (to converge between an anonymous user to a registered one), it will determine their shopping experience (and the money you make), it will determine if they tell their friends it’s a crappy site or a great site. One has to be sensitive as to how users feel when they experience the experience. Make no mistake, the experience is engineered, and that’s why, in my opinion, it’s impottant to take experts directly from the field, like bloggers to manage and run a blogging product and so on.
In the next few posts I’m going to write about websites you all probably know, Myspace, Flickr, Youtube, different blog spheres and other web utilities. Some posts would be written from the eyes of the user I am, and some would bring my-point-of-view’s “first contact” about the interface and experience based on my knowledge and experience with websites. So, I went to Myspace.
I’ve never opened a user there, and I still don’t have one. From that point, I decided to check only my first impression from the website, to go through the main pages, directed fully by the top bar and not deal with the registered user’s experience of the GUI, and by the site’s flow. ***(Of course I am biased, it wasn’t my first time on the site but I have to say I haven’t been there for more than few seconds each time I’ve visited there). As the title suggests, Myspace is a jungle, and in the next few paragraphs I’m going to explain why. The most important thing about a social utility and web services in general is the registration and sign in box and process, if you don’t do it right, you lose. Once you’re registered you won’t go back unless you leave the site for good. You’ll meet new friends, you’ll upload media of any kind and your inbox will grow. In other words, the minute you sign in is the minute you start having obligations. You’re attached, emotionally.
Myspace’s front page does it well. The sign in box is right there in the center of attention. Sadly, some parts from the rest of this big website doesn’t support the registration procedure and it seems someone there didn’t go all the way in terms of understanding how they could help a person register from anywhere. I’ll get to that later. So, the main page’s first impression is that it’s too full. Under the top bar are the Videos, probably there with the help of an editor. Below are music and special feature boxes and on the right- “cool people”, more videos and sponsored links. On the bottom there’s a big mistake by Myspace- a how-to and where-to-go bar is hiding there and looks like a sponsored links bar. It’s a big mistake, because people already know how links are presented by Google. It has become something regular users naturally overlook and this is what Myspace put there. The rationale behind the spread of the sponsored links is not understood.
Browse, Search, Invite. Indeed, it’s important, but all these options take you looking for people. Why not create a unified page, a center, where you look for your friends, search for love and invite others to Myspace? From a UI perspective, it’s not that complicated.
Video. In my opinion, when you go to a video page you need to give people the “play” symbol in one or two clicks maximum. When you’re in the main video page, every click there will bring you to the author’s page where you will have to look for an embedded video or the pics-and-videos links that are actually hiding (unbelievably) at the almost top of the page. Also, take into consideration the fact that every user can change, even a bit, the page’s layout and that the comments box has unlimited space to grow (A scrolling down Hell) and you could say for sure: Welcome to the Jungle. One of the main platforms Myspace uses is the Myspacetv.com. If you end up there any way, why not create the Myspacetv zone as a main space inside Myspace and or replace the Myspace platform to be Myspacetv? Why not let users who use it on an everyday basis, create their space AROUND the TV zone and not start linking to it. Let it be their home.It could save people’s time, effort, headache- AND CLICKS. I wanted to address one more thing about clicks in this website: In order to fully get access to everywhere- you need to sign in. When there’s a link that takes you to a “registered only” zone you will bounce back to the start page in order to sign in and you may feel the link is broken (a lousy feeling you as website owner can eliminate in 2 minutes). A better idea would be to create a pop up window that would sign you in without going back to the start. Another idea is to direct guests to a specially designed page only for guests to register or sign in and than automatically bring them to their destination. Simple and doable.
Blogs. This page is horrible. Not only it’s vertical in nature (everything vertical is a disaster). I tried to enter the first blogs a few times and they’re private and blocked by the users themselves. So I’m asking myself, why promote private blogs as the top cohice blogs? Why not create a private vs. public blogs sections? Have no mistake, everything can be made, everything is hand made there. You would think a website would encourage people to stay public and than give them the-top-of-the-list place, but no, you get a no entry page when you click (no-no-no), and it wouldn’t help you to be registered, you have to be friends with the writer first. Also, have you heard of the Long Tail effect? It’s there, big time, and go search for your friends on page 37 or somewhere and good luck with that Forums. When the main page looks like that you know that you’re going to have to come back to it many times in order to jump between conversations inside your forum or between your favorite forums. Pages over pages with nothing to do that act as a corridor to get you to where you acrually wanted to go. Why?!
Groups. Go to the automotive groups’ page for example. A thing that didn’t occur to the Myspace people in the groups’ context is that a first page has to be organized alphabetically by default and not in any other way so to save clicks and help people find what they’re looking for as fast as possible. Oh, and by the way- A GOOD SEACH BOX could help.
Events. Guys, choose where you put your Google ads, c’mon. And how do you think events should be organized, by date, right? Myspace people don’t think so.
Music. I don’t know… some pages didn’t open or took’m ages… I got tired.
Comedy. Bottom line, all roads lead to myspacetv.com. As I suggested before, I think Myspace should reorganize itself around their TV platform and not the other way around.
Conclusion– Sometimes I feel it’s all about the interface. Most of times it’s true- A website could rise and fall because of UX engineering. Myspace is different. It succeeded despite its mess. At present, it’s the biggest and most successful social utility on the web even despite not being UX friendly. It means the need for what Myspace is giving is stronger than the people’s will to get a good engineered product. There’s a saying: Don’t fix something that is not broken. This is not the case.