I’m notoriously cynical when it comes to new social services and apps. I’m already drowning in the madness of Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and the list goes on and on and on. But every once in a while a service pops up that fills a gap. No, it may not be the next Facebook or Twitter (or maybe it will), but it will make for a fun time when you feel like interacting with others on the interwebs.
This is how I feel about Balloonduck. It’s a brand new service that basically works as a Twitter for questions, with curiosity being the special of the day.
So why not just ask questions on Twitter? That’s the question on your mind and I might as well answer it. Well, I think the fundamental difference is user interface. Balloonduck is a sort of mix between the beauty of Pinterest (albeit horizontally) and the information of Twitter.
Users can ask questions, and attach an image if they’d like, which are then answered by other users. It sounds simple but the interface is really compelling, and it’s clear that the Balloonduck design team worked hard to make this as great as it can be. I spoke with product designer Vivian Xue who has some interesting thoughts on what it takes to make a beautiful social application.
“There’s a fine line between being an attractive product and being an overdesigned product,” said Xue. “If there’s any secret sauce to social app design, I’d say that it’s synonymous to designing a good picture frame. You’ve always got to remember that the bulk of the content should be user-preference and all you’re doing as a designer is creating a pretty frame around what is ultimately going to be user-content.”
She also talked about the product design process as a whole, which involved a lot of feature scrapping.
“We, as many startups do, fell victim to overloading our product with a lot of features that we thought were cool and we simply kept them because of the time we spent working on them,” said Xue. “Once we scrapped the fatty tissue around our core product, we designed an experience solely around making requests easy to create and interact with. Our litmus test was very simple. If any average Joe could master the application without the assistance of helpers or on-screen tips, then we knew that we had a winning UX.”
Sounds like a solid way to go about it.
But here’s the thing. Nobody likes empty room syndrome, which is why Balloonduck is currently going through the process of accepting invite requests. When they finally hit a certain number of requests, the service will go live. And trust me, that day should come very soon — they’re already past a third of the way there.