I’ve been wanting to write about Plurk for a while. Everyone seemed to be so enamored with it when it first launched, but maybe that was because Twitter was experiencing serious downtime and people were pissed off — not because it was anything actually worth being excited about.
The first time I logged on, I had an immediate visceral reaction against it. The UI is so chaotic that I don’t know where to look first and can’t concentrate on anything. Worse, I don’t understand the need it’s trying to fill: what is the use case in which I need to see a color-coded visual timeline of my friend’s messages? What does the backwards-chronological list not accomplish?
I’m very task-oriented when I’m on the computer — I don’t play online games and I don’t watch a lot of web shows (with the exception of Two Guys on Beer, of course). My point is that I tend not to stare at any single page for very long before clicking to go somewhere else or closing the window. Plurk requires a certain amount of sit-and-stare that just doesn’t fit my style.
However, there was something about my initial use of Plurk that I really did like — their onboarding process. It reminds me a lot of the first-time user experience of Shine from Yahoo!, which I wrote about when it was released in March.
Like on Shine, Plurk greets new users with a welcome message that offers a guided tour to orient the user to the page. The visual design aside (it’s atrocious), I think the walkthrough is successful because it is lightweight, fluid and only five steps.
What Plurk actually does more successfully than Shine is provide a link right in the footer to access the “Get started guide” for subsequent use. I couldn’t find it anywhere on the Shine site when I first reviewed it, though who knows, they may have added it since.
So no, I’m not going to be using Plurk, and it’s far from being a replacement for Twitter, even in the worst of downtimes. But I gotta give credit where credit is due — they did this one thing right. Now completely rethink your branding and color palette and timeline design, and maybe you’ll have a product worth talking about.
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