In 2004, I worked at Adobe. I had finished a project and had some free time, so my manager had me help out Mark Hamburg, one of the original engineers on Photoshop, who was working a new project. This new project went on to become Lightroom. When I met with Hamburg to see how I could help, he told me his goal for the user interface of this project was to create something with personality. “I want people to either love it or hate it. It’s okay if they hate it. It means the product has personality.” This was, I believe, in contrast to Photoshop which has an interface focused entirely on utility. If Photoshop’s user interface had a personality, it would be similar to the guards that stand in front of Buckingham Palace.
Path, a San Francisco startup creating a new social network, launched a revamp of their product recently. This 2.0 product breaks from the user interface conventions of the 1.0 product by introducing custom user interface elements and conventions that haven’t been seen in other application. It’s new. It has a personality. As a result, you either love it or you hate it.
Path’s CEO, Dave Morin, even mentioned in an interview with Robert Scoble that they hired someone with an English degree who wrote graphic novels to come up with the voice of the product. She filled Path’s walls with “different things Path could say” and they built features around some of those sentences.
It’s up to the product team to figure out to what extent they want to infuse a personality in to their product. Do you go with something purely utilitarian, something with a strong personality, or land somewhere in between?
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