Homogenized User Interfaces Attract More Users

created Apr 3, 2019

The title refers to big silo platforms.

Facebook groups and subreddits are better at fostering online communities than message boards, hosted at unique domain names because the former offers familiarity to users and community admins.

And the community admins won't have to incur the admin tax that involves domain name registration and renewal, monthly web hosting payments, DNS management, server management, database management, and message board software installation, configuration, and updating.

Facebook users may belong to numerous Facebook groups, and their user experience is the same across all of the groups. Ditto for Reddit users and subreddits.

When users enter different communities on those big silo platforms, the users don't have to learn the software functionality for each community.

Some users may be community admins of multiple Facebook groups and subreddits, and the features to manage their communities remain the same within each silo platform.

If users were members at multiple message boards that were hosted at unique domain names, and each message board used different board software, then it's probable that every community would look and function differently. Now to me, that's a positive, but for most users, that's a negative because it means learning how each board's software functions. And users would probably need to create a user account and remember or manage another password for each unique message board.

Users only need to manage one login for each of the big silo platforms, but the users can enter multiple communities within each platform.

Users probably prefer a similar interface for all of their communities. Nothing new to learn. The community admins don't have to worry about updating software. It's a win-win-win. The third win being good for the silo platforms when it comes to packaging the user activity into targeted advertising.

I'm guessing that most web users have zero interest in playing around with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to create unique looks for their own personal websites, hosted on their own unique domain names. They have no interest in pondering the pros and cons of the open web versus silos.

The users are more focused on hosting online discussions as easily as possible, and the big silo platforms created better mousetraps than what the open web offers.

But in my opinion, the open web fosters more creativity, and it offers a better chance for uniqueness. The open web requires more effort, but the independence provided by the open web makes the extra effort worth the time.

I realize that I'm in the minority because I don't participate in silos.

Technically, my 16-year-old message board toledotalk.com that I shut down last month was a silo, but I did not exploit the user activity for advertising. I built the code to power the site. I made numerous modifications over the years. It was a hobby. It was a unique site, independent of any company. A community existed.

But TT activity declined significantly over the past few years. I'm guessing that TT users found more interesting communities in the silo platforms.

If Toledo Talk had been a subreddit or a Facebook group, it probably would have had more activity over the past five years than what occurred at toledotalk.com.

I'll continue to read websites that use their own unique domain names. Blogger provides domain name mapping. Even though Blogger is a CMS-hosted solution, owned by Google, authors could move their sites to other CMS-hosted solutions, such as WordPress or to server-hosted solutions, such as Digital Ocean or Amazon Web Services, but in theory, old URLs for the authors' content will remain intact.

sitename.com/this-is-an-article should be able to exist at any CMS-hosted or server-hosted solution.

Preserving the URLs for the content over time, regardless of how the site is hosted is supporting the open web.

But that's minority thinking. A URL that contains Facebook or Reddit is good enough for nearly all of the web users who participate in online communities.

Again, I think that the familiar UI/UX for every community within the big silo platforms is a major selling point for users.

MySpace profiles could be customized to the extreme. It had a Geocities like feel. It was unknown what kind of UI/UX would occur next when clicking around within MySpace.

Back in the mid to late aughts, Facebook's desktop/laptop website appeared to be professional-looking with its clean, simple UI/UX that used a lot of negative space. Facebook provided users with little to no customization options to their pages, regarding display. Facebook users knew that they would experience a UI/UX sameness, regardless of where they clicked within Facebook.

Sameness can be comforting.

Apr 3, 2019 Hacker News comment.

In some ways the 'old' web died around 2006-2007 when Facebook started to get its hooks in.

MySpace was a big thing before that, where people curated their own profiles with custom HTML, then Geocities before that.

When Facbeook came along it felt like a breath of fresh air at the time as the interface was clean and simple, and all your pals were there.

I guess it was one of those "you don't know what you've got til its gone" things, because the sterile Facebook UI and overly corporate Instagram fiefdoms makes me really miss the old internet.

The thing is though, does anyone outside of tech or media really give that much of a crap? All their pals are on Facebook/Instagram, the barrier to entry is low (no need to learn HTML/CSS/JS)

Add Twitter to the mix, and tech and media would be excluded from the sentence that I emphasized. The sentence would read:

Obviously, journalists love to use Twitter, and many tech people use Twitter as their online identities. Maybe that sentence could be written this way.

Plenty of creative and funky personal websites still exist that are updated regularly. They might be harder to find, but the "old" open web will be around for a long time.

While I believe that readers should be in control of the typography when reading websites in their web browsers, I still enjoy the creative looks of personal website authors.

I like this person's website look and philosophy.


Hi! I’m Peter, and you’re on my homepage. Yes, it’s an old phrase, but this place is my home on the internet, so it’s rather accurate. I gave up on social media, and retreated to a version of the internet before MySpace, and I’m trying to encourage people to do the same.

Jul 25, 2019

"The Mutable Web (simulacrum.party)"



Top HN comment:

There's also an aesthetic homogeneity to the big social media sites that strikes me as bleak and depressing compared to the amateurish, handmade web pages of my childhood. Different pages on the same website — even different entries in the same journal — might look wildly different

I touched on this in a recent post here: https://www.jamesyu.org/blog/my-journey-from-frame-maker-to-painter

I empathize with the author on this, but I also appreciate that platforms have designed their frames to prioritize content. This has resulted in an explosion of creativity within the frame that we wouldn't have otherwise seen, because the platforms have allowed more people than ever to express themselves, and not just the folks who know how to hand code pages.

Homogeneity provided the consistency so that creators could focus within the frame.

It's a conundrum. While I enjoy the mostly unique aesthetics of personal websites, it's the users' content that entices me to return.

The complex, bloated, modern web designs used by websites that are meant to be read are so hostile to reading that I prefer no aesthetics on websites. I only want to download the content, and then I want control how the content appears to me.

Readers should be in control of the typography. Hence my growing interest in producing only text/plain Markdown (CommonMark) files and letting the readers convert the Markdown text into a better display format, via a dedicated browser or extensions added to Chrome or Firefox.


And this section of my post refers to personal websites while the content that started this post focused on community sites. But maybe the discussion should focus on platforms (silos) that offer community services and/or personal spaces. Reddit and Medium are silos for very different reasons.

And this decade, we saw the change from reading the web on desktop and laptop computers to reading the web on smartphones and tablets, especially through silo-specific native apps.

With small screen real estate, especially on phones, it's harder to create the funky, quirky, artistic website aesthetics that existed on personal websites in the 1990s and early aughts.

If websites want to control the display of its content, then a simplified look is required to display content comfortably on phone screens, held in portrait mode. The phones force homogenized looks. But again, the content should be the key.