Copycats - Why we copy UX and what to be careful of


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A lecture given at UXI Live 2012. ↓↓↓ CLICK THE 'NOTES' TAB ↓↓↓

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  • I copied the title of this lecture from Jeff veenWho copied it from PicasoWho copied it from T.S Eliot
  • We’re going to examine 7 myths/statements about copying, both from the process aspect, and the UX aspect.
  • This is why we usually copy
  • New technologies rise quite often and we se new ways to use them.The digital beauty ideal is changing.Creative ideas get captured in our minds, consciously and unconsciously.Culture changes – we now have the User’s friends experience to think of, and we meet new ways to deal with it every day.These MUST go into our toolbox.
  • On Bar Refaeli’s site I designed, I added a collapsing shopping cart.It’s not and innovative concept, but I clearly remember the day I saw this concept for the first time, in 2006.
  • AustinKleon says we’re a mashup.Nothing is original in our minds.So we are copying, whether we want it or not.
  • “Fadiha” in Hebrew means something like an embarrassment, or a flop. A fail.
  • The users of Sugarsync won’t notice the clone, even if they installed Dropbox, since this is a one-time usage.So if you are really shameless and have no creativity at all – there are still some places where you can copy and it won’t matter.
  • These days – even the big guys copy from each other.Here is a really fresh one from yesterday – Facebook copied Google+.Perhaps we’re witnessing a change in the code of ethics.
  • Facebook also copied Google’s photo viewer
  • The crowd is forgiving
  • “It’s all for a good cause”.
  • Walla is israel’s equivalent to Yahoo, and I was their head of projects before I went solo.When we designed the homepage, we wanted to use colors to help the use.It made perfect sense, but one argument repeated: A competitor called NRG did it first.We could have ruled out a good solution just because it was a “fadiha”
  • Mental models – when we see a new product that resembles a different one – we expect it to behave like the other one.
  • 2004 – all search engines used the exact same colors and layout as if it was an absolute truth, so Google users will find it easier.
  • We identify a stream the second we see it, even if these are project management product.They even say ‘Collaborate facebook style’.So the users UNDERRSTAND the product thanks to the style cloning.
  • You understand what this site does instantly
  • And there’s a common UI control now to express affection.One of my clients has a social network for football (soccer) and they have a ‘cheer’ function. By copying the Like control – users should understand it instantly.
  • It’s not just to help the users understand how it works, but also what it is.News sites in Israel has a unified style for the main image. Otherwise it won’t be considered as serious news.It has to have a big image and a vertical news ticker. A horizontal ticker is for finance, vertical is for news, right?
  • Same goes for sports news.You need a big image and prominent colors to let the user understand what you are.
  • So what’s next? Will we all look the same?
  • Google+ looked like a FB clone.The extra features don’t matter – it looks like FB.From the usability concept – it was right. FB users could use it from the second they landed in G+.But they didn’t give the user the motivation, since it looks just the same.Recently they changed it.
  • When the +1 button came out, we all understood that it’s a LIKE clone.But it’s a mistake.Site owners don’t’ see a reason to use it until G+ gets more active users, but they miss the point.+1 shares promotes links on Google search. It’s not just about sharing to G+
  • Why would anyone clone a site so accurately?
  • Let’s save time
  • Samwer Brothers: Rocket Internet38 companies in 53 countriesAlmost a billion dollars in Exits.They spot a successful site in the US and copy it rapidly to other countries.
  • Farm Life, by Plinga(wiejskiezycie)
  • AirBNB clone
  • Time is saved in lots of aspects.If you find a place where copying is the right way – that’s a win.Planning – you have all the information architecture readyDocumentation – you can communicate the requirements to the designers/developers without documentationDesign – Sampling and copying (graphic work) is much faster than finding the balanced design (real design)Discussions – huge time waster usually. That’s not the case once you decide to copy.Conflicts – solved quickly by copying the solutionDevelopment – you can copy CSS and client side easilyUser testing – can be done on the source before we start developing the copy.
  • But with all due ‘respect’ for their business, we prefer to invent, to lead, to innovate
  • I adore innovation. That’s what I wake up for.Innovation is what brings progress, and in many case, success.Apple has innovation written all over it.They must be innovative, or their customers won’t pay $2200 for a laptop.In most cases – they don’t innovate if there’s no need to innovate
  • Even Apple knew where to copy
  • Jonathan Ive’s products hold some similarities to those of Dieter Rahms.They know how to copy and make it better. Combine innovation and ready-made.
  • And sometimes they innovate just to innovate, and the user gets to suffer from it.The oval mouse wasn’t usable in any way.No one knows to explain simply what this green button does, while the other OS provided the usefull (at the time) maximize button.
  • “THEY know what they’re doing”We usually start our research by looking at our competitors, the big ones we wish to become.
  • So if I want to design a big commerce site, I look at Amazon.Barnes & Noble did (2003).Amazon must know that this is the ideal navigation UI for a big commerce site.
  • But through the years they kept changing it.They decided to expose the 1st and 2nd levels on the left hand column.Then they went back to 1st level only.And then they decided to close the navigation entirely (for standard screen resolutions). And the label that opens it doesn’t even stand out.Why does it happen?Do they launch without testing? Interviews show that they have a bad usability but users use it and will recommend it to others.Do their users adapt well?Did their recommendation engine got so good that they know what to offer you? Maybe they earn more on the promoted items?We can’t tell. But what we think as ideal today – might not be the ideal by the time we launch our copy.
  • And on other countries – Amazon still looks like the previous version.Is it a cultural difference?Could it be they don’t have the resources to change it now?So the ideal copy of a commerce site is different for American and European sites at the moment?BTW – Remember the Samwer brothers? Here’s another clone.
  • And if I design a social site that has a status update form – I copy Facebook.But how can I copy when they change it 5 times it 2 years? It’s like trying to draw a model that can’t hold still.Facebook is known for testing changes on the users. I might be copying a test. It might be a failure that will roll back tomorrow.
  • Although they are placed at #9 on the US, I never heard someone saying “Lets copy Craigslist. They know what they’re doing”.Suddenly, we no longer think that copying a successful product will make ours successful too.
  • Pinterest got countless clones this year.Loudlee liked their interesting grid design and copied it to a new world – music. Good so far, right?But while the Pinterest grid was designed for random photoboard browsing, music is not scanned by the photo albums. Not today. You need to scan the titles and this grid doesn’t make it easy.And another thing: Since album photos have unified proportions (square) you can place them in a standard grid so users will be able to scan them, like Vjam did. But it looks like Loudlee wanted to “make like pinterest”, and it hurts the usability.
  • When we find the REAL download button here (it’s actually a link), we understand that that’s not a mistake. This decision was made because their business model makes them cooperate with the advertisers that steals the user’s download.We won’t copy them if we don’t have this model on our site.
  • But that’s the thing – There’s no ‘ideal’ product to copy from. Every product has constrains that influence its UX. When we copy ignorantly – we take the whole pack.
  • Copycats - Why we copy UX and what to be careful of

    1. 1. - - Eyal Shahar UX Consultant & Designer @eyalshahar If watching on Slideshare – Click the ‘Notes’ tab to see slide notes
    2. 2. Jeff Veen
    3. 3. Copycats And their users
    4. 4. 1/ WOW, THAT LOOKS GREAT!
    5. 5. 2/ BUT… FADIHA!
    6. 6. Many have been moaning that the new photo viewer looks like a rip-off of Google+. Admittedly it does, but who cares. It makes our photos look better and were not giving up the social network.
    7. 7. Facebook hasn’t been shyabout taking inspiration.Their goal is the best user experience.Google+ certainly wasn’t shy about usingFacebook’s design as a starting point.
    8. 8. Fadiha isnot an excuse for bad UX
    10. 10. 4/ WE CAN’T ALL LOOK THE SAME
    11. 11. Google+ certainly wasn’t shyabout using Facebook’sdesign as a starting point.
    12. 12. 5/ LET’S MAKE IT QUICK
    13. 13. TheSamwerBrothersRocket Internet
    14. 14. 6/ I PREFER TO INNOVATE
    15. 15. TBWA 1997
    16. 16. We have alwaysbeen shamelessabout stealinggreat ideas. Jobs, Triumph of the Nerds 1996
    19. 19. 1. If you innovate at the core – You’re excused about the Fadiha.2. Copying a famous concept? Users will expect yours to act like the original.3. You might be copying from something BAD. Even on successful products.4. What you copy was (hopefully) designed for them, and holds their restrains. Try to see where you’re different and then decide if it fits your needs and if you have the same restrains.
    20. 20. TODA@eyalshahar |