Whose Space?

I’ve held my tongue on MySpace for far too long, so let this be the first of many complaints I have about this service.

A few weekends ago, my friend Ellen asked me to help her customise her MySpace page. After giving her my rant about why MySpace is all kinds of wrong, I agreed to help her out. I refuse to have a MySpace account out of principle1, so I’ve never tried to customise a MySpace page, but I did know that it’s not the most intuitive of processes. That night provided all the confirmation I needed that this is indeed the case.

It really annoys me that MySpace is seen as the champion of customisation. If you believe the press, MySpace invented the concept of customisable profile pages. The truth of the matter is that it always been one big giant hack. Whilst it’s true that the service demonstrated that people want total control over their profile pages, it still lacks any easy internal method of allowing it’s users to do so, instead relying on a legion of third-party sites to provide these customisation options.

As such, I watched Ellen click on countless ads that take you into a whole world of third party companies that offer layouts, background patterns, animated diarrhoea and other design elements of brought back from the year 1996. I knew it was bad, but this was just too much for me to handle.

Of course, once we found an image (or more accurately a chunk of unintuitive HTML code) the edit profile page was generating an error, so we had to give up for the night.

It’s funny because its true.

1 The same goes for me buying any copy of the Sun, MySpace’s off-line cousin.


5 responses so far. Go on, add yours!

 Gravatar#1 On May 7, 2007 11:33 AM, Kris said...

But surely the worlds most popular online social network. So they must be doing something right from the business point of view.

 Gravatar#2 On May 10, 2007 8:39 AM, Jon Roobottom said...

Yes, Indeed they are doing something right, which just goes to show there are very few people bothered about design that works well, or interfaces that are a joy to use.

Kinda makes me feel like my job is a big waste of time. Well done Paul, in one foul swoop you've killed my passion for the web.

If you need me, I'll be getting a job on the bins.

 Gravatar#3 On May 10, 2007 11:02 AM, Ian said...

Its all about money, they just brought their huge audience with huge marketing ploys, all you hear on the radio are DJ's talking about their MySpace accounts, hmmm wonder who pays them to say this?

About the UI, Its about style and image. People do care about style when its a differentiator, but if people were to walk around after smearing our faces with toilet chocolate then no one would notice that we all smelt of sh*t. MySpace UI is not different, same principle right?

 Gravatar#4 On May 10, 2007 12:14 PM, Paul said...

Thanks for the comments guys!

I think Ian is right when he says that people care about style when it's a differentiator - I can could give you 100's of comments posted on forums on Ning powered networks, they usually follow the pattern 'Wow, this is like MySpace - but better'.

Although having said that, I'm not sure if that's because Ning networks tend to be more focused on a topic/genre/interest so there is a better sense of community.

I think MySpace is probably proof that 'being cool' sells - people like to buy into the latest fashion - be that from peer pressure, or the sense of inclusion. See virality. Design I guess is only part of that equation, but it does matter, in that it makes products more 'sticky'.

I can't tell you how many friends I know who have signed up to both MySpace and Facebook. They sign up to both of these services because they are cool, and because everybody else is. But which of these services do you think they actively use day-to-day. I wonder how many accounts on MySpace are actually dormant? I wonder how many people who do use MySpace, actually enjoy their experience?

Things in fashion quickly go out of fashion, and they only remain successful if the product changes to meet customer expectation, and/or constantly reinvent themselves.

MySpace a.) couldn't give a shit about it's customers (see the amount of advertising plastered across it's pages) and b.) I'm not sure MySpace has it within itself to come up with anything new.

I'm looking forward to the day when MySpace is what the Walkman is to the iPod - yesterday's news.

 Gravatar#5 On May 11, 2007 9:22 AM, Kris said...

I agree. The whole thing obviously comes down to Marketing and you cant criticise Myspace for their Markcomms cause they have clearly got it right!
You can have the best product in the world of its class but if you dont get your marketing right then you'll be flogging a dead horse from the start.

Take the classic Betamax vs VHS war in the seventies where Betamax was arguably the superior technology yet clever Marketing tactics by JVC ensured we spent the next 40 years taping our favourite shows on VHS.
I think you could probably spend forever slaging off the shortcomings of Myspace, but in truth, I don’t see it going away for quite a while yet....

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HeadshotLloydyWeb is the home of Paul Robert Lloyd, a British graphic designer with a passion for web standards and attractive design.

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This entry was written on 6 May 2007, 10:30 AM and is filled under .