I used Path twice. None of the people that I know are using Path. I even checked with an early adopter of social media recently and one of Path’s earliest users. She told me that she doesn’t see a lot of people using it. Generally, this is not a good indication. Maybe there are millions of secret Path users (or users in another geography that I don’t know about) but it seems that Path just doesn’t pick up.
Sure, Path 2.0 design is amazing. However, amazing design is not enough. It is like fashion. Everybody is excited about it at the beginning, but then people are getting used to it and eventually it wears out. After it does, the user is left with the essence of the user experience and what Path misses most is a compelling and unique user experience that will make using it worthwhile.
“Amazing” design won’t get you anywhere
What is considered web design today is not really design. It is styling, pixel coloring or whatever you’d like to call it. Real design is about solving problems. It is way more holistic and deep than the actual work we do in Photoshop. Real design is about creating a thoughtful, engaging user experience. Aesthetic styling can be then applied to enhance the experience as long as it doesn’t get in its way.
There’s a reason why the most successful internet companies have fairly utilitarian design — take Facebook, Google or Amazon as an example. The focus is on creating a fantastic experience that delights users and adds value.
Instagram’s design is utilitarian and is way less “sexier” that Path’s. However, Instagram made taking and sharing photos so easy and delightful and that was enough.
Why Wesabe lost to Mint?
Marc Hudlund was the CEO of Wesabe. Wesabe was an early competitor of Mint, but you might have heard of it. The service actually launched 10 months before Mint did. Hudlund wrote a humble post on why Wesabe eventually lost. I encourage you to read it but the key sentence is: “I was focused on trying to make the usability of editing data as easy and functional as it could be; Mint was focused on making it so you never had to do that at all.”
In other words, from all the things that Mint did, there was one thing that mattered the most and made a huge impact. Mint just brought in all your data and organized it for you automatically. That was the poison on the tip of the arrow. Finding this poison is the real job of the real designer.
How Dropbox killed it in a competitive landscape
When I showed a designer friend Dropbox in the early days, she was appalled. Dropbox used a set of generic icons called FamFamFam that is almost as old as the web. That was terrible design. Well, actually, it was terrible styling. The design of Dropbox was genius although they didn’t have any designer on board at the time.
They put a folder on your computer. Done. Behind the scenes, there was so much technology and so many features. All that didn’t matter. There was one thing that mattered most. That was the folder on your computer. That was Dropbox’s poison.
Thinking about design
It is time that we as designers shift our conversations from the new cool color palette, the gradient and the drop shadow effects and the latest shots on dribbble to creating compelling killer user experiences. This is how great products are built. Find your poison.
Image credit: Juan Dao/juandao