That's an interesting theory, Regindk. Maybe it's something about unpolished sites. There are always advocates of the "Ugly Sells" theory in ecommerce, too.
I agree with you; I think it's the individuality and variety that in part makes mySpace a success - read this excellent talk [danah.org] by Danah Boyd.
As with anything, especially design, it's horses for courses. In other words, some things work in some situations and other things work in different situations.
In the UK, the biggest property website is Rightmove. And man, it's U-G-L-Y. When I first saw it, I thought that they were seriously behind the times and in need of a new designer, fast! However, after thinking about it a bit longer and exploring the site a little more, it became clear that this layout is perfect for their target maket, who may not be the most internet savvy types around. It's simple, clean and easy to use.
Another classic example is Google. I highly doubt that they paid a designer millions of dollars to come up with that design. Although they may have paid a usability expert! It's simple and it does what it needs to do.
This is quite a passionate subject of mine (as you may have guessed :-) and I've turned 180 degrees over the last year- I used to think that everything had to look fantastic, irrespective of how usable it was. Now, however, I realise that designers only make up about 0.001% of the population, so as long as a site looks good to the majority, I'm happy.
The design of MySpace member sites is to a very high degree up to the member him/her/itself. There are a few generators out there who help you click together MySpace pages. And it seems the majority of MySpace users have never heard of design principles and usability. So the sites are a naive mixture of anarchic designs.
Does that then mean that we, as 'more experienced' webmasters, should be taking our design cue from them?
As far as I can see, the design/layout chosen by myspace members could be due to two factors:
1) They actually prefer the layout they have, as it makes more sense to them.
2) They lack the ability to lay their page out in any decent manner, so it's just a hodge podge mess.
If (2), then there's not much more to be learned, apart from the fact that myspace should improve their page building tools and tutorials. If (1), then maybe we should be examining trends in the layout of myspace pages and implementing them into more mainstream websites.
...or perhaps it's the fact they can choose how to lay it out that matters more than it "making sense", keeping up with design trends or meeting standards.
Interesting article Casethejoint, thanks for the link.
An interesting thing I stumbled on is that some of the top searches on myspace is for member page layouts and html code. The look and feel is important to the members.
The members care about their member pages, and there are many outstanding layouts. The design freedom expressed by these otherwise non-web people is cool. It's fun to click through profiles and find a person who is doing something wild with their member page.
Also look at the variety in quality of sig files on some forums, particularly gamer ones. Some are genuinely beautiful, whereas others are an offence to the eye. Whatever the difference, the author clearly gets a kick from having it there, and it means something to them.
"Naive anarchy" for sure.
Modifying your MySpace profile page is a horrible experience - nobody wants a default layout but to change it involves a lot of css hacking. Hence the popularity of layout and codes sites. Getting anything to work is a miracle.
Speaking of ugly community sites that are highly successful, Craigslist comes to mind, too.
And webmasterworld.com ...
I think it would be fair that it is not the layout/appearance that creates a succesfull community. But what role does it play to have a polished one (ie. Friendster) or a more random one (ie. Myspace)?
More important than any design element is usability!
I came from a design background and I would spend hours on some button images just to make them look "Pretty" and appealing. The fact is the most effective button was the one generated by HTML itself!
The majority of people on the net today care about functionality and usability!
Danah Boyd of the "American Association for the Advancement of Science" has published a scientific paper named "Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace"
A few excerpts:
|Adults with authority control the home, the school, and most activity spaces. Teens are told where to be, what to do and how to do it. Because teens feel a lack of control at home, many don't see it as their private space. |
|Teens have increasingly less access to public space. Classic 1950s hang out locations like the roller rink and burger joint are disappearing while malls and 7/11s are banning teens unaccompanied by parents. Hanging out around the neighborhood or in the woods has been deemed unsafe for fear of predators, drug dealers and abductors. |
|What we're seeing right now is a cultural shift due to the introduction of a new medium and the emergence of greater restrictions on youth mobility and access. The long-term implications of this are unclear. Regardless of what will come, youth are doing what they've always done - repurposing new mediums in order to learn about social culture. |
Its a very interesting article which any budding community builders should read
Yeah, that Danah Boyd paper's a good read.
The ol' "style vs substance" has also been given a new twist here [site-reference.com] in an article called "The Surprising Truth About Ugly Websites".
The author notes:
|And this is one reason that ugly websites can sell. The lack of professionalism and a polished look leads one to believe that they are dealing with an individual. Websites cannot be trusted, but individuals can be trusted. |
Can it really be this simple? That we distrust premeditation?
Kathy Sierra's "Creating Passionate Users" blog had an article recently trying to attribute some of myspace's success to specific things. It's an interesting read, so I won't spoil the fun.
|They clearly did not strain the budget by hiring a top notch designer |
What makes you say this? I would really like to have a piece of software like this. It is awesome if you ask me.
Being a myspace member recently, I can say that you won't realize how intuitive it is until you actually join and become a member. The interface is easy, and if you have html skills, you can create pretty webpages, and format the page to how you want it to look using CSS. So, the way the pages look are completely up to the skill level of the member. I am sure everyone here can have awesome looking myspace profiles.
Communication is easy. That is what makes myspace attractive in my opinion. There are many different ways of communicating within the site, not just one. There are bulletins, instant messages, pm's, notifcations when friends add you, comments, a message board. It is also a brilliant way to advertise. If you have 500 friends, you can advertise to each and every one of them using the "bulletin" feature. For example, when I finish writing a piece of music, I can instantly advertise to everyone who is on my friends list to come and listen to my piece.
Furthermore, the more friends you have, the higher the probability your profile will be found. It's a really great way to advertise not only yourself, but other things as well.
And one final obvious thing that makes myspace attractive is the fact that it has countless active members. Myspace doesn't even really have to be that attractive visually, since it seems to be the monopoly of social networking.
"They clearly did not strain the budget by hiring a top notch designer"
I was refering to the aesthetics of the site - not the functionality at all...
Very good article found by Casethejoint - thanks for sharing...