Oops, social media did it again

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Only Justin Timberlake could bring the sexy back so convincingly to a site as obsolete as the VCR. Yes, I’m talking about Myspace.

Myspace’s makeover is good. It’s seamless to create a profile and connect to friends with Facebook and Twitter integration. The site stays true to its core as a place for musical artists to share and build followings. With about 25 million unique visits this past June, perhaps all Myspace needed was a lifestyle change. (Click on image below)


But, there are two issues with the new site: its horizontal layout and profile design.

First, the layout
Is horizontal scrolling really the way to go when the majority of web users will access Myspace from smartphones and tablets? It seems most user experience experts agree that when reading content, vertical is better. By choosing a horizontal layout, Myspace put looks over function. (Click on image below)


Now, the profiles
It’s no secret that the new Myspace mirrors Pinterest with its photo and video displays and small captions that float above the background. This layout seems well designed, but the posts shown in the teaser video are identical to posts on other social media sites. What new value is Myspace adding? Pinterest has proven that people love seeing any person’s artistic endeavors. Why should I care more about Justin Timberlake’s backstage routine? (Click on image below)


Which brings me to another social media site: Branch.

Branch is a platform intended to foster more meaningful conversations between people—friends, professionals and peers—through invite-only discussions that filter out the Internet’s noise, which so often disrupts the flow of ideas. Though just out of beta testing, the start-up site is beautifully simple with a design that supports the clear thinking most enjoy with good conversation. (Click on image below)


Uncluttered pages
The background is bare and lets users focus on conversations rather than likes, recommendations or new tags. There are no separate buckets for other types of content like posts, messages, etc. Instead, everything is in one place until the user filters it out.

Simple navigation
Most people access sites indirectly, for example through links posted to Twitter. So, Branch cut out the middleman and stopped bringing visitors to its homepage first. Instead, you carry your content across pages through a link on the side of each page labeled, “My branches.” (Click on image below)


Built for mobile
If you’re on your phone, the “My branches” icon swipes open, so filtering and finding content is still one step. Additionally, rather than having multiple columns for conversations, Branch keeps everything in one column so that it’s easy to scroll on the go.

The elephant in the room
One outstanding question is: Do we really need another social media site? Many of Branch’s benefits are available on Facebook or group texting services like GroupMe. Myspace management is also well aware of the overcrowded digital social space.


But neither of these sites is trying to repeat what’s already out there. Innovations in user experience and digital design exist on both sites and enable new ways of interacting within this space. It’s on the users to decide what social web they want.

Which new social media sites do you think are worth a try?

Jessica Sochol is an associate information architect for Siegel+Gale’s New York office.

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