John Petersen

The Meerkat Design Standard

One of the biggest mistakes that designers and developers make when creating new things is that it almost always ends up too complicated.

Simplification is the ultimate goal here, and it's very easy to forget that. It's not that this complication happens on purpose. It's more a function of designing from a bubble. That bubble is a magical little place where only the startup team exists. Within this bubble, everyone knows exactly what the product is, how it works, where to click, what the process flow should be, and how to avoid breaking things.

In the real world, it's just the opposite. No one has a clue what is going on, and they always find the exact right combination of buttons to hit in order to break the site. Stupid users.

It's Not Me, It's Them

It turns out, users aren't stupid at all. It's the design that isn't living up to its end of the bargain. Or if you listen to Fake Grimlock, you have to code for the rat brain and pretend all users are absolutely clueless.

It's all different ways of saying the same thing: if your users don't know what's going on, it's your fault, not theirs.

It's your job as a startup to educate your new users and have them seamlessly glide through the on-boarding path. It's your job to show them the value of your product and get / keep them engaged. If these things don't happen, there's only one place to point the finger.

Gavin and the Meerkat Design Standard

My almost 4 year old nephew Gavin is in love with my phone. He probably loves everyone's phone and not just mine, but as soon as he sees me, he asks for my phone. He even memorized my password, so he doesn't need me at all anymore.

Mostly, Gavin takes pictures of things, looks at my pictures and watches Cookie Monster on YouTube. Every once and a while, he scrolls through my phone to look for games and fun stuff. When he stumbled upon the bright yellow Meerkat logo, he opened it right up.

I've only used the app once or twice to listen to someone I like from Twitter. In general, I think most people are too boring for me to take enough interest to see what they are live streaming, but that's a conversation for another time.

So Gavin opens the app up and is immediately broadcasting our family dinner. He then proceeds to send out a tweet about it all from right within the app.

Gavin and the Meerkat

I watched in complete fascination. The UX was so simple a 3 year old child could instantly figure it out. That blew my mind.

To be fair, Gavin had no idea that he was broadcasting our dinner to the world (nor did the rest of my family for that matter). That's not the point though, because most new users don't really have a clue what they are doing either. The Meerkat design team built a process so simple that you almost magically / automatically start doing exactly what they want you to do. That is design done right.

It's easy to say that Meerkat is a simple app and that my site / app is more complicated. And to that I say, stop it. Stop with the excuses and start focusing on how to design for Gavin.

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