Experience Does Matter

Posted: October 23rd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Business, Technology | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

The people want change, yes, but not for its own sake. Knowing how to make change rationally? Well, that comes with experience. No, I’m not resurrecting the Democratic primary. I’m talking about Yahoo! and Facebook.

The Facebookers made it big by showing up straight from Harvard with a lot of intuitive genius about marketing, but little-to-no experience with the nitty-gritty of graphic design. When they started out, they had so few features that it didn’t matter where and how they placed them. The page was sleek and clean because it had to be. As they’ve added more and more elements, however, Facebook has grown cluttered and this is not the first time I’ve complained about it.

In an attempt to deal with clutter, Facebook issued a major redesign this summer but it’s not going over well. From their business/product-oriented perspective, the new page makes sense–it effectively merges all the features [new friends acquired, new wall posts, new photos] into one information flow and therefore should make everyone happy. But it doesn’t look very appealing, and doesn’t recognize that most users don’t see all Facebook activity as equal. The Facebookers, it turns out, are very smart marketers and managers, but they’re not great designers because they have zero experience with design.

By contrast, the folks at Yahoo! have been running and designing websites for eons. So when it came time to spruce up the Yahoo! homepage, they knew how to implement a design:

1. Study user behavior and develop many possible responses
2. Test responses (ie new designs) on users
3. Study user response
4. Tweak/redevelop each new design element to address user feedback
5. Iterate above steps until optimized

It’s a model, fundamentally, of gradual change, and that’s the tack Yahoo! is taking. Instead of wasting money to fully roll out a new layout only to find that it flops (a la Facebook), they are introducing one new feature at a time and rolling back and redeveloping any feature users say they dislike. Not only will this model ease users’ transition to a new layout by revealing new features slowly, it will ultimately give users the Yahoo! they want, since users help inform the R&D; process. That’s very Web 2.0 for a 14 year old company.

You can learn hip new cultures like Web 2.0. But (design) experience? That comes with age.

One Comment on “Experience Does Matter”

  1. 1 Colin Clout said at 9:50 am on October 24th, 2008:

    Truth. New Facebook is ridiculous. But have you seen the new iGoogle…now that is functional and pretty.

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