The Facebook/Instagram story has already been written about too many times, but one aspect that hasn’t been beaten to death yet is how their UX was the difference. In a saturated photo-sharing market, they blew past everyone just by making it easier to use. I mentioned it a couple months ago, but I believe we’re now entering an era of “Success by UX“. You can take a large, entrenched market and attempt to leapfrog it with design – and that’s a completely legit strategy! It’s certainly not easy to pull off, but there’s definitely room for it to happen.
It’s funny, when I first started working on startups a year ago, the presence of a competitor terrified me. But the more time I spend in the industry, the more clear it is that it all comes down to you. Sure, having competitors has the inherent risk of them nailing it before you, but more often than not most companies never actually make it. They end up with a “good enough” product that doesn’t inspire.
PicPlz had a couple years to try and perfect the experience on Android before Instagram arrived, but they couldn’t do it. When I had an Android phone, I stopped using PicPlz after a week or two because I had a too many frustrating moments. Even though they do essentially the same things, I post a pic every day or two now on Instagram, but never on PicPlz. All based on the UX. Crazy.
Take a look at this great visualization from Compete on Instagram’s vs. PicPlz’s growth. If that doesn’t illustrate one breaking free and winning while the other stagnates, I don’t know what does.
But what excites me most is what startups we’ll see rise in a few years. With the recent success of UX-heavy Hipmunk, Pinterest and Instagram, it’s hard not to be inspired to make beautiful, easy to use products. Look around the internet and you still see lots of large, successful, but poorly designed sites. It might have seemed foolish to attack head-on with “easier to use” as your main competitive advantage before, but now it doesn’t seem so crazy.
Execution truly is everything.
Congrats Mike, Kevin and the team. You built a great product and deserve it.
If you liked this article, you might want to check out my post on what Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger had to say at SXSW about app design.