Ello was pitched as a social networking platform for artist, that does not show you advertisements or sell your personal data. According to Ello’s about page, they were founded by a collection of artists & designers, and aims to provide a contemporary forum and virtual workplace for artists, brands, agencies, publishers, and fans.
Throughout the presentation, a few interesting points worth considering, were raised by the team. Here are my thoughts about the matter:
1. Understanding your target audience
The presenting team mentioned that Ello presented users with a mostly minimalistic and aesthetically pleasing user interface, that predominantly has a monochromatic theme.
At first glance, an “aesthetically pleasing” user interface might seem like the obvious choice. On the contrary, an aesthetically displeasing user interface would only serve to turn away users from the platform – which would be nothing short of a disaster for any social networking platform. Furthermore, a minimalistic theme is neither a new nor unfamiliar trend for us today.
So, why is this point interesting? The answer to that lies in their choice of a monochromatic color scheme. For most web applications, a monochromatic color theme would scream BORING (yes, with every one of those letters in caps). For a social networking platform that aims to appeal to artists and designers, the monochromatic theme would seem to be screaming NO and NO on every count.
Except, it doesn’t.
In fact, the choice of a monochromatic theme demonstrates their commitment into showcasing the artists works, as opposed to their own web application. It demonstrates that they understand their target audience and seeks to best serve their customers, even if that meant that their own design was to take a back seat. Rather than to steal the artists’ limelight, or to compete against the artist for the viewer’s attention, Ello commits itself to supporting the artist by providing a platform where they can showcase their artworks in an non-disruptive setting. And that is why this point is particularly interesting – because it demonstrates that design choices that might initially appear completely counterintuitive, can actually turn out to be clever and reasonable, if given more thought into the matter.
2. Improving load speeds
The above point actually brings me to one of the possible improvements suggested by the team’s presenter. He argues that everything on Ello was painfully slow, and recommends that they should use applications like Cloudinary or TinyPNG to resize and optimize the images to a much more reasonable resolution.
However, if we were to think back to Ello’s commitment towards showcasing its artists’ work as best as it could, then it becomes obvious to us why Ello might have chosen to display its artists’ work without any form of rescaling or optimization.
Picture this. You are a new artist on Ello and you have just captured some of the best moments, professionally captured on a professional video recording set, 4K resolution and everything. You upload the short video, go back to the dashboard to check out how the preview looks and… 360P resolution.
So we can conclude that the suggestion doesn’t quite fit Ello’s vision. Same point as above, call it a day? Well, not quite. While resizing and decreasing resolution may not be the most optimal solution, there are definitely areas for improvement when it comes to Ello’s load speed. As the frontend community continues to grow, more and more technological solutions are available that could help Ello with their loading time, without compromising on image quality. Service workers, for example, could be used to cache and fetch image previews that it has seen before. Ello could also aim to load less preview images on first load, and strive to load more, later, after the initial page load.
3. Phobia of advertisements
it was fairly fascinating when the team’s presenter presented Ello as an advertisement free social networking platform. I get it. We hate advertisements. We hate them with a passion. Some of us might begrudgingly watch advertisements on our mobile phone on a voluntary basis because it is a viable alternative to accessing paid content without having to pay for it, but we still hate it. However, we get it though – developers need to eat.
So Ello’s commitment into developing an advertisement-free social networking platform is definitely commendable. But, does it make sense? Advertisements on a social networking platform can appear disruptive and annoying, when the things that you really want to see are your friend’s likes, posts, and shares. Advertisement on a social networking platform for artists by artists, however, sounds absolutely perfect.
The difference boils down to the content that is being advertised. If I’m at Facebook to view my friend’s activities, I’m going to be turned off if I see an advertisement about something irrelevant – like a new B2B solution for some obscure business need, for example. If I’m at Ello to view artwork by other artists, I’m not going to be turned off with seeing promoted artworks on Ello – I’m probably going to see it sooner or later anyway.
Thus, in this particular aspect, I do think Ello can be a little more daring in venturing into the advertisement space. Of course, it might be hard for them to do so now, given how they advertise themselves as being advertisement-free. Besides, their business model is still working out for them, so perhaps it works out after all.
What do we think about when we say “social networking platform”? We think about liking, sharing, posting, commenting, etc. Simple, common, social things to do with people. Therefore, it completely blows my mind away when I tried to share an image from Ello, only to be asked where I wanted to share it to – Facebook, Twitter, Email, … <insert 10 other social networking sites here>.
I mean… really?
Where is the social aspect of a social networking platform if I cannot share an image from Ello, to a fellow artist on Ello? It’s almost as if we need to go to another social networking platform just to engage with our friends in an online social setting.
The user experience in Ello can be downright confusing at times. I did argue that their minimalistic and monochromatic design serves to support, as opposed to compete, the art works that it showcases on its web application.
However, I believe that a minimalistic theme almost always mandates an onboarding process too. Without which, it is often impossible to tell what an icon is supposed to mean or do. Unfortunately, it does not appear that Ello has worked on this, or that it has plans to improve on this in the near future. Either way, we can only hope to see where Ello will go in the next few years.