This is a series on a brand new social website that myself and several other team members are getting ready to launch called NightScene, a social search engine that helps you discover new venues, events, and friends that suit your own tastes wherever you go. To see more posts about NightScene, just click here. And to visit the NightScene landing page to find out more and follow us, click here.
Simplicity is key to the internet — everyone is opening a million tabs in their browser trying to find a million different videos, keep tabs on their friends, and discover new content all at the same time. It’s hard to keep anyone’s attention, especially now that all of this is happening not just on a laptop in someone’s house, but through such a large number of mobile devices such as cell phones like the iPhone or tablets such as the iPad. Everything is pretty much single serving content that is designed to be consumed in one brief view and then the user moves on to something else.
So how do you get this right? Well, I’m not an expert in traditional sense that I work for some multi-billion dollar advertising company. (On second thought, I suppose the Navy is one of those entities…) But, what I do know is that I consume a ridiculous amount of media, be it social or traditional media. Except newspapers; I live in 2010 not 1910, thank you. I also have had the fortunate experience of working for companies that produced social media as well as traditional marketing and advertising. I feel like this gives me grounds to say the following:
Google got it right. So right. Go to their page right now. What do you see? A search bar. It’s so intuitive and simple; no one needs to know what the site is because it’s already so obvious. The thing that most users probably never realize is that there are so many features to Google that its depth and complexity is pretty much endless. Everything is presented in a simple way, but the information there is surprisingly complex. (I know that sometimes this can be overwhelming; Google’s “Wave” was an attempt to simplify sharing information and it turned out to be way too complicated to make it useful. For the most part though, Google has it down.)
The problem with emulating Google is that everyone understands a search engine. And in most cases, everyone understands, say, Facebook, a common social website. Where things start to get tricky is when you want to combine those two and you get a social search engine. What is that? No, really, I’m asking you to tell me because even I have a hard time grasping it — and I’m making it. NightScene, therefore, has to be both forgiving to the new user so that they can get into it and deep for the returning user who already is exploring their scene. It will take time to justify this concept as being the best thing since Al Gore invented the internet, but I’m actually pretty confident that it will be.
In my mind, when I’m coming up with design ideas and general strategies, I want to keep this site simple enough that anyone can jump on and use it and feel familiar while still feeling fresh and socially relevant. It really needs to be accessible from anywhere easily and have the main features be right there, front and center. Honestly, we’re going to be dealing with a lot of bars and clubs, so this will mean that people who are feeling no pain need to be able to figure it out too! So, how do we accomplish this? Here is a list of thoughts in a bullet point form because I know you’re loading a YouTube video of someone falling off a skateboard right now and you’re running out of patience for all these words. (Why couldn’t I have just done this in 140 characters?!)
- Make vital features take as few clicks as possible to access.
- Make smart use of advanced coding to reveal more detailed information only when a person wants to see it.
- Keep the pages as simple and clean as possible.
- Help the user understand the site by guiding them through unfamiliar features.
- Don’t post blatant ads on the site. Make them match your demographic when you do use them.
- Allow the user to control the content that they interact with so they develop a connection to it.
I know these are really pretty general concepts, but you’d be surprised at how many sites completely ignore the user and just assume that the user is on the same level as the person running the show who is intimately familiar with everything aspect of the product. Similarly, many popular sites just try to push their sponsored content onto you without making a real connection as to why you should care about whatever is being promoted.
There’s a real balance that needs to be achieved between showing a large amount of information to the user and keeping things simple. Keep it too simple and the user might get bored. Make it too deep and the user might be confused or turned off by all the content. NightScene is still in its infancy but the design is essentially finalized and I think we’ve done it right. There’s a lot of interesting information up front, the site is easy to use, and it offers depth to the user who wants to support the social aspects of it. But this is coming from me, the guy who is making the product and not the actual user. It’s really up to how the user actually interacts with the site to shape and evolve its future. What we’re doing now is laying the groundwork for something that can be huge, but it’s up to you to make it the site you want it to be. And I think that’s the freshest idea on the web right now.