This is the best thing I’ve read about Path, and it perfectly articulates something I’ve thought not only about Path, but also a lot of other exemplars of the fussy, post-Apple wave of “high design” in tech products.
Then Brent says:
Read both, and then the Khoi Vinh article article Buzz links to.
It’s difficult to say exactly how much design is “too much,” but finding that middle ground may be the most important job that an interaction designer has. Negotiating an equilibrium between the user’s ability to roam free and the system’s desire to funnel activities into specific directions is tricky business. This is a challenge that requires not only imagination and skill, which the best designers always have, but also perseverance and insight — the ability and willingness to work in an iterative, responsive fashion, with the understanding that the job is never really done. Even among the best designers, that’s rare.
[But I don’t agree. There is no room to breathe in Facebook, or really in Flickr either. Flickr feels a bit more “mine” because in my use it’s mainly about me and people I know or know of. So it feels personal that way. Facebook, you’re thinking is as well. But I rarely really use Facebook per se. My tweets publish there for the sake of folks I know who inhabit that space. And I “like” a few things here and there. But that’s about it. So not only is my use limited, but I find the page jammed with alerts, ads, and junk about which I haven’t the slightest interest.
I think the “tricky” cases are where you want a clean and clear design for the main case, but make less used and more compacted flows available. to me that’s tricky. The other case for tricky smacks of trying to herd users into an action, or gaming. I’m not a fan of either tactic.
And while I’m railing about stuffs… notice how many sites have started demanding that you sign up before you can even see anything on it? I refuse to join any of them. If I visit a site with commerce on my mind, you darn well better be able to show a pretty picture and maybe some lovingly crafted text before I give you anything.]