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Commentary on the rise and fall of YayNay (or How to Make a Beautiful, Functional App and Still Not Succeed)

  • Aaron Boswell
  • 04.18.2014
  • Industry News

Hello, Im Aaron and I am the creative director at Storefront. I also wear several other hats, but thats the one I like most. I will be writing here from time to time to share my thoughts on design trends on the internet, how they change, about apps, and even print (if it strikes my eye). I will focus my efforts on eCommerce and how good design and a great user experience can help customers get to what they need quickly and get them checking out. This month Im commenting on an article I read in Medium written by a former colleague of mine (@hemeon). He recently posted about his venture into the iPhone App world with an app called YayNay (Think family-friendly Hot or Not combined with Instagram).

I loved the concept but have to say that I didnt use it much for 2 reasons. 1, I am already entrenched in my various social media platforms. And 2, all of my friends and family are on those same platforms. I think Marc and his partners did a great job, however, and am eagerly waiting to see what comes next.

Build around basic human needs. Humans are self-motivated and use apps in general to stroke their ego, push their agenda forward, #humblebrag, or to receive some form of direct benefit. We post and share to social media so others can tell us how amazing, lucky and incredible we are. We inhale the flattery like a drug and the ecstasy of micro-fame we feel is addictive and empowering. The most addictive apps play on our base human need to be accepted and loved.

That said, here is my commentary. I LOVE writers that reference other material and and their own motivations. Marc talks about his motivation seeing his daughter chatting up her friend and asking if she should buy an outfit. I then lost at least an hour listening to BJ Foggs video about motivation against behavior and reading up on him thanks to the included link. Marc was very candid about things they could have done better:

  1. Test your idea before building
  2. Mobile web before native
  3. When building native iOS, your first version has to be super solid
  4. Build on existing social networks
  5. Post out to social graphs to spread the word
  6. People need an incentive to help each other
  7. Build around basic human needs
  8. Dont underestimate timing and luck
  9. Plan to track & fight abuse

He was not so much candid about what they did right (though he is great about giving credit where its due):

  • Amazing design and revisions
  • Great team
  • Solid development platform
  • Consistent updates and revisions
  • Pounding the pavement (figuratively) to get the app in peoples minds and phones

I dont believe that the YayNay app was doomed from the start nor do I think that it was destined to be the next Facebook. I think that in these situations, #8 (timing and luck) have more to do with getting huge success than anything. I do think that a lot of these couldve dones apply to eCommerce and selling online in general. Heres my list of things to do better:

  1. Design is the first thing your customer sees, make it count.
  2. If the design is great, but the customer cant get to what they want, its not great design.
  3. Guide the customer where you want him to go. Too many options is no good, too few is bad as well.
  4. Typically, you dont hit home runs your first time at the plate. Be willing to modify, change and adapt.
  5. Design should follow how people want to navigate, not how you want them to navigate.

These arent new concepts. Theyve been around since the web started and have evolved over time. I know that I constantly have to recommit myself to looking at sites I am working on and acting as if I have never been there before. How would I design this from scratch today? I encourage my clients to think the same way and between client and designer (and anyone else you can convince to take a look at the site) we get a better product out the door.

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