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I believe that this randomness is on purpose, because they do not want to intimidate new members from signing up - giving them a feeling that "Myspace is not too pretty for me".
I might be wrong. What do you people think? And how important might this be in their success?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
They clearly did not strain the budget by hiring a top notch designer
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.