A Whine about Twine (and other platforms)

I was intrigued by the description of a new social web platform called Twine, so I accepted an invite to the Beta, and started exploring a bit this morning.

Twine is digging into some concepts of the semantic web, and its purported approach mirrors some ruminations I’ve had about Web 3.0/4.0/5.0 whatever-you-want-to-call-it (long post brewing for sometime downstream).

In this particular post, however, I’m going to focus on one thing. Intuitiveness.

I’ve come to increasingly value software apps that are designed with a rapid-uptake user experience in mind. This is one of the hardest tricks of the craft, and having worked in prior years with a software company, and wrestled long and hard with interface issues (from both the development and user point of view), I know it’s not easy. But we’re in an age of information and application overload, and quite frankly, if I’m not seeing the value and the usage flow within a few minutes, I’m going to lose interest.

So, back to Twine. I came, I saw, I felt lost.

I’m a reasonably smart guy, and though I’m not one of the new-generation digital natives, I can figure out my way around software pretty well. When I have to, I can learn new programs in-depth. But the thing is, increasingly, I don’t have to. Or shouldn’t have to.

When I began blogging, I played around with Blogger, settled on WordPress…but in both cases, had no trouble figuring out what was going on. iTunes – same experience. Twitter – even easier. LinkedIn, Flickr, Constant Contact, Pandora, Picnik, etc. – if you make the experience intuitive, I’m a regular user. But if I’m not immediately seeing “the point” of the system, and quickly gaining the WIIFM, then you’re going to lose me.

I sat down with a client of mine recently who had just put his toe in the LinkedIn waters. By showing a few simple functions, and displaying the WIIFM results, in 20 minutes, he was off-and-running.

Google has forever shown how you can marry immensely powerful algorithms to simple and intuitive interfaces. The challenge for architects of the new web will be to create engines that do more than one thing (more than search, more than Twitter), but still maintain the simple, immediate-gratification user experience. On a first-blush level, Twine didn’t pass that test for me.

Is “I get it!” is the ultimate metric of success? What do you think?

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