Explain to a non-designer - web success

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  • cherub

    What are the ingredients to make a massively successful website?

    When you really think about it, pinterest is/was just a shitty rip-off of ffffound.

    Let's take this nice and slow. What design wise, or usability wise was so wrong with ffffound that it died, and so right with pinterest that it skyrocketed to fame? I cannot wrap my head around why when looking at the side by side comparison below... it seems like the site that died should have been pinterest. One is a vomitous pile of random images and the other is something I would interact with.

    Further Questions:

    When you design, do you always design for the lowest common denominator? I mean, if the general public is stupid, do you dumb down your product and make it stupid too? Do bright and shiny objects and big stupid nav buttons win out over more thoughtful design?

    How much does your initial userbase make or break your site?

    Does a website have to have full integration with the big guns of social media or shall I say, an exaggerated social media focus to have any shot at making it? The only site I can think of that doesn't and still made it big is craigslist.

    FFFFound's wiki says: web designer Yugo Nakamura "avoided elements of modern web design while directing the development of the site in order to keep its appearance simple."

    So besides no adverts/no revenue is that what doomed the site? He avoided modern web design. Exactly what parts of modern web design should he have included but didn't?

  • monospaced-1

    The 1995 style generic links in electric blue Times New Roman definitely has nothing to do with it. Neither does the lack of hierarchy, nor the logo of what appears to be someone grabbing their ankles. Makes no sense why it didn't succeed.

    • Ahhhh.... I was only thinking of the content that I find(found) when on it, not the steps to get that content.cherub
    • The logo for instance, I had never really thought about it until you mentioned it. And hierarchy, I was completely unaware.cherub
    • ahaha well said :D:Dsted
    • Are you being sarcastic cherub?monospaced
    • No. I'm learning about design. From a photography/videogra... perspective.cherub
    • Some of the terminology you take for granted I only have a base notion of. (hierarchy)cherub
    • Of course I had literally seen the logo before, but when I think of the site abstractly in my mind I think ofcherub
    • the content I end up finding, not the site itself.cherub
    • Alright, cool. Let the schooling begin.monospaced
    • actually mono this could be a good idea for a startup lol - there's a lot of preconceptions about design and designers hmmmgrafician
  • yuekit5

    I don't think this leap can be made from evaluating the quality of a site design to predicting whether the site will be successful or not.

    FFFFound was always a somewhat niche site created by two graphic designers. It had limited ability to sign up...remember everyone begging for the invites? Even the name was somewhat difficult to type in.

    Pinterest was a more traditional tech startup with venture capital backing, ad campaign and so on. I agree Pinterest is shit though...

  • mort_4

    Design is only a small piece of the puzzle. (and Pinterest, as mono alludes to, happened to look more consumer friendly)

    Budget, marketing, timing, hiring skills, leadership, luck, the market,... there is so much that needs to fall into place for something like this to be successful.

    • Consumer friendly... because the name "pinterest" is cuter? Among other things I imagine..cherub
  • cherub1

    But also to expand on mono's point... if they had put just an ounce of actual effort not into the form of the website but the um, aesthetic I think...

    Then maybe things would have gone a different way?

    But that still wouldn't solve the problem of the hard to type URL and invite only signups.

    • different targets mate: pinterest is for bloggers and regular folk, ffffound was for designers and creative types, more of a niche, get it?grafician
    • Yes. Too niche to appeal to anyone but it's own kind. Kind of like "living in oblivion" for filmmakers.cherub
    • It's more polished and commercial looking for mass appeal.mort_
    • It's a filmmakers inside joke about filmmaking.cherub
  • grafician2

    Pinterest is VC backed
    ffffound was an agency side project, couldn't be monetized (or won't) and died

    design had nothing to do with it

    • design could have been used to get backing. It helps.monospaced
    • ffffound was NSFW, so no VC would touch it, also it was .jp not American - if you're not in SF you don't exist for VC basicallygrafician
    • but it was successful because it was pre-instagram, pre-behance, pre-dribbble etc.grafician
    • One time I remember I had over 600 ffffound tabs open in Firefox back in 2008 lolgrafician
    • "you don't exist for VC basically" lol
      @grafician VC money exists outside the United States.
    • @mono you can't say Tha.jp lack design skills, that studio is one of the most innovative in the world, ffffound stripped-down aesthetic was a choice, for suregrafician
    • designspiration is well designed. but it's still too nichehans_glib
    • @sted Sure it exists, but not for projects like Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc. Try to open a Facebook 2.0 in europe lolgrafician
    • @sted also you can't grow/scale like the in US, this is a long discussion about VC and startups, next time...grafician
    • Slick decks. The only skill needed to secure millions in SV was keynote. (Jokes)jtb26
    • @jtb you'd be surprised how often this happens lol no jokegrafician
  • cherub2

    Do agencies sometimes turn their pet projects into money makers?

  • Morning_star1

    You can't go far wrong with Mr Rams' principles.

    Good design is innovative.
    Good design makes a product useful.
    Good design is aesthetic.
    Good design makes a product understandable.
    Good design is unobtrusive.
    Good design is honest.
    Good design is long-lasting.
    Good design is thorough down to the last detail.

    Many designers ignore most of these and get all fizzy about the aesthetic or the type or the imagery etc and they forget that most of the people who will be interacting with a consumer brand won't understand or care about the sophisticated aesthetic nuances.

    • Yeah these are for product design mostly, not for UI/webgrafician
    • Mm, 'good' web design is rarely innovative.
      IMO, 'good' web design gets the fuck out of the way and lets the content do its thing.
    • @grafician. Interesting, why do you think that there's a difference?Morning_star
    • I think it'd be quicker and easier for you to answer why you think it'd be otherwise, with examples.Nairn
    • I think each one of those design principles is appropriate for good UI/Web. Genuinely asking which of them isn't?Morning_star
    • Innovative. Unobtrusive. Honest. Long-lasting. Thorough down to the last detail. To me, these are affectations of people designing for permanence, not web.Nairn
    • I'd even lump in aesthetic and understandable too, if you consider what it is that contributed to Facebook's success, for instance.Nairn
    • ^yeah exactly this Nairngrafician
    • It's about the permanence of visual artefacts - an app is iterated upon monthly while a Braun radio is the same after 50 yearsgrafician
    • Is the web not permanent? Facebook for instance has evolved and embraced Innovation in numerous areas. It is unobtrusive in that it is familiar and predictable.Morning_star
    • It's honest, and long lasting. And FBs constant changes reflect a thoroughness in delivery the most appropriate product for it's stakeholders.Morning_star
    • I still remember the first time I uploaded to the web professionally.. and something wasn't right - 30 seconds later it was fixed and reuploaded.Nairn
    • Given the general startup advice in Silicon Valley is "Just do whatever to get it shipped" and there's a conformal culture, I disagree much thought needs put inNairn
    • I've lost count of the amount of startups I've seen rely on basic, unstripped Bootstrap code. No one cares, except us.Nairn
    • The code is not the product. To Graficians point, the plastics that were formed to construct the Braun product or the transistors etc can be upgraded etc...Morning_star
    • ...this is innovation. The product is the same but now does a better job. Surely this is the same with FB or any website?Morning_star
    • The code IS the product, if the code off the shelf is presentation and it's the first thing a prospective mark, sorry - client, sees.Nairn
    • "if the code IS off the shelf presentation.."Nairn
    • 'Mark' LOL. The user doesn't give a tuppence what the code is, all they are interested in is achieving their goal within a good experience. The Braun Radio...Morning_star
    • ...is not the plastic or the transistors.Morning_star
    • I'm clearly not making my point - I appreciate that the user doesn't give a fudge about the underlying code. They don't much give a fuck about UI eitherNairn
    • and, worryingly, nor do an increasing amount of developers. they just want to get the idea of something out and use a bare minimum template to do so.Nairn
    • Thereby creating digital products that aren't innovative, aesthetic, unobtrusive, long-lasting, etc etc. They merely function. Facebook functions.Nairn
    • ..and then you can make it pretty or better or more innovative (etc) after, if you wish, iteratively.Nairn
    • Yes a Braun radio has permanence in design and function. A website or any app does not. Instagram went from a photo app to an influencer platform in 10 y, etc.grafician
    • That's also why I hate people calling "product design" the shit we do on the internet, those are not real products, per se.grafician
    • You only need one of these points.

      "Good design makes a product useful".
  • jtb263

    1. Loads of investor cash. Billion dollar valuation. Hype.

    2. Apparently skilled data scientists.

    3. Web 2.0 good looks.

    4. Stolen intellectual property in the form of photography, art, etc.

    5. Profit?

    • Oh, and a lack of snobby invite system?jtb26
    • 4 was first,
      then 2
      then 1
      then 3.
      5 is now
    • Actually I find Pinterest "scroll a bit then sign-up pop-up" very offensive! Now instagram did the same on web, fuckers!grafician
    • A/b testing is law.jtb26
    • ^^give you a little taste then take it away. works every time.cherub
    • yeah it's called "bait and switch" I think
      All tech giants do it, they offer something for free, then monetize your data
  • jtb261

    Anyone remember gimmeBar?

  • kingsteven4

    ^ more than that it was founded by Ben Silbermann (previously of Google Ads) and Paul Sciarra (Radius Capital) - they initially were developing an app called Tote (it similar to Lyst - pintrest for clothes shopping) they raised a ton of capital and simplified it in to a general purpose bookmarking site... I would say their success and fffound's failure has very little to do with design.

  • uan1

    red is hot...
    ...blue is cold.

    always use red if you wanna sell something.

    • Facebook is blue because Zuck is color blind or somethinggrafician
    • ....my theory is crap.uan
    • Facebook is blue because a bunch of engineers A/B tested the shit out of it and the blue they ended up using was entirely inoffensive. Shit, but inoffensive.Nairn
    • This is very true for the art-world, not sure how relevant it is online. I suspect features and marketing matter a lot more.Nairn
    • Holy crap. I just imagined youtube's logo as blue and it looked - AWFULcherub
    • I was not joking about Zuck blue https://edition.cnn.…grafician
    • Also if you're not using websafe colors, color on the web is a very tricky situation, each user sees something different based on his systemgrafician
    • I'm pretty sure that tidbit in the New Yorker is some post hoc bullshit rationalisation, but it's not like i care much.Nairn
    • Blue is friendly. Red is aggressivemilfhunter
    • Blue also = trustworthy. Banks use blue. We’re trusting Zuck with our datascarabin
  • SteveJobs2

    Mass appeal?

    The two sites had very different uses, user experiences, content, and therefore, audiences.

    For a while, images all over the web had the Pinterest 'pin' feature which helped with its popularity.

    Ffffound, on the other hand, had more of a 'if you know, you know' reputation often featuring unusual navigation and niche content. I never got the impression it was trying to reach the world, sooo yeah, their lack of success doesn't surprise me when compared to that of Pinterest.

  • CyBrainX2

    I saw Pinterest as a improvement because of features. I could save pins and organize things into groups. ffffound is so long ago now, but I don't remember being able to do that back then.

  • utopian2

    Let's be honest. 99.999% of all websites blow-ass.

  • renderedred2

    my one rule is simple, do not put anything on the screen if it doesn't serve a function. everything else is make-up.

  • showpony4

    Even if ffffound was still around, they'd never be worth a fraction of what Pinterest is. First of all, Ffffound was niche (which is part of what made it great, of course), but that radically lowered its total addressable market. Pinterest has 250 million MAUs and has grown every quarter for nearly a decade. That's a proper product with real reach and a proven resonate offering.

    Further, Pinterest can evidence business value massively. There's a strong correlation between pinned products and purchase intent. Massive. This small difference — that Pinterest represents what the user wants to buy/be/do in the future is qualitatively different in every way from ffffound, and direct ROI can be derived from user behavior.

    Lastly, and this is the big one, Pinterest isn't about Pins exactly. Every Pin is "enriched" with the user's description and its source etc. From a data perspective, this means that they have essentially created one of the world's most sophisticated images search and taste graphs. The user behaviors are structuring otherwise unstructured data. That's a profound thing.

    tl;dr — Pinterest is successful because of scale (large TAM), proven adoption (increasing MAUs), proven and measurable business value (direct and measurable purchase intent), and differentiated datasets that can be leveraged endlessly. Ffffound never had — nor could have had — any of those assets or qualities, though I love and miss ffffound so much.

    • I really enjoyed Pinterest up to about a year ago. It's not even the ads that bother me, it's all the "click-bait" links that go to spammer websites.utopian
    • I made the original comparison because it seemed like both sites are just doing the job that bookmarks used to do before we had all this stuff. Both sites arecherub
    • letting you save content that you found, as opposed to uploaded yourself. But your 2nd paragraph makes me realize the difference goes far beyond any of this.cherub
    • A more fair comparison wou;d've been between ffffound AND the old Svpply website (acq by eBay and shutdown)grafician