Hello, Ello

So there’s been a fair amount of hype about the new social networking service called Ello. I got an invite recently (which is not that hard to come by) and just spent some time using it.

So what’s it like? I’m struggling to describe it because it just seems so… sparse.

Visually it’s quite simple and clean. There’s too much white space, to the point where it seems barren and almost cold. The busy-ness of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, all of which cram way too much noise and activity into their layouts, is the norm now. And that’s probably why Ello seems oddly silent. You can practically hear the tumbling tumbleweeds. Ello’s icy silence might be less noticeable on a native mobile app, which is supposed to launch later this year for both iOS and Android.

Aside from the visual aspect, here are some quick observations:

  • There’s no helpful way to find people who you might know. Since it’s still a relatively small site, I guess they don’t have enough people to run recommendation engines that will help you find the people you might know. Instead, you have to search for them by real name or their Ello user name.
  • It’s easy to invite friends to the beta. Just click the “+” button.
  • The “friends” vs. “noise” filters are clever ways to switch between people whose updates you really want to see, vs. those you’d rather not. It’s also really easy to switch someone from friend to noise, or vice versa.

In a nutshell, it’s a simple and minimalist site in its desktop version and is refreshingly free of the “sponsored” messages that are everywhere now on social networking sites. That was a big motivator of the Ello philosophy, and it will appeal to anyone who doesn’t want to be a product to be targeted by advertisers.

“You can’t make your app viral”

“You can’t make your app viral as an afterthought, like pixie dust that magically gives you a ton of users. It has to be designed into the app’s core functionality and features.”

Smashing Magazine is a great website about mobile app design. The quote above is from their article Key Ingredients to Make Your App Go Viral.  Here’s how I summarized it on LinkedIn:

Good apps, and the ones that I use regularly, follow these simple rules:

(1) Allow meaningful sharing, (2) Be transparent about privacy, (3) Make connecting essential to the user experience, (4) Reward your users and their connections, (5) Offer meaningful ways to engage users, and (6) Always be useful.

As I think more about what I like or don’t like about the mobile apps I use, and the reasons for that like/dislike, I find that a lot of the Smashing Magazine ideas make sense to me. I will post more on this in the future, since it raises so many interesting questions about why I gravitate to some apps more than others.