I check out a post a while back about how SEO and online search engine ranking algorithms have created a garbage dump of worthless search results throughout search engines. It’s interesting how drastically different browsing the web was before online search engine started ranking results based upon appeal and profiling user engagement. In the early days of search, there was a real feeling of exploring the vastness of the web.
In the last couple of years, sites and social media platforms have introduced check out pages/tabs into their interfaces. Generally these are just feeds masquerading as check out pages. Other times they are simply fixed curated “staff picks” lists, or individualized suggestion pages. To me, these pages don’t live up to the name “explore”. A feed is based around time, normally sorted reverse chronologically, whereas a check out page exposes the expansiveness of a website by pulling from disparate sources, indifferent to time, permitting one to leap into the depths of something totally new. Even individualized recommendation pages like Instagram’s check out tab aren’t really check out pages either due to the fact that they are restricted to a user’s interests/similarities to other users on the platform. Being fed similar material based on your likes isn’t the exact same as checking out the vastness of a platform. Explore pages are unique because they unearth things that are not always the most popular or the most recent. Surprisingly, when explore pages are developed this way it enables users to approach a platform with an open mind and with less expectations. Explore pages need to make you feel a sense of enjoyment similar to the sensation of exploring a brand-new location.
When I operated at The Imaginative Independent, we talked about producing an explore page, but we never got far enough along on the concept to specify what the page would in fact look like. One thing we did execute was a random button that served up a random interview from over 600 short articles throughout the site. I wound up moving this button into the main navigation so that readers might continue to click the button up until they discovered an interview that interested them. It’s fairly easy to carry out a “randomized items/articles” section on a site. When it comes to The Creative Independent, this basic addition exposed how extensive the site truly was.
In 2008, I stumbled upon the website Muxtape, which was the original “mixtape on the internet” site. It allowed you to submit MP3s from your computer system and curate the tracks into a “muxtape”. Though the website was ultimately closed down, I typically consider one crucial style choice. Muxtape’s homepage had a “Random active muxtapes” area that altered on refresh. This easy randomized section provided users a way to instantly check out muxtapes across the site.
Surprisingly, this feature alone replaced the need for a search. The site became focused around checking out blends instead of browsing for a particular mix or a song. I remember spending hours refreshing the homepage, clicking through to a mix, listening, and heading back to the homepage to find another. I ‘d never experienced anything like this on a website. It truly felt like I was checking out a large archive similar to the experience of wandering through a library and arbitrarily picking a title from a rack. It was a totally brand-new feeling and all of it came from an easy random function.
Though I doubt anything like Muxtape will ever exist again, I do not think the concept of exploring a website through randomization has to be totally lost. This easy design decision revealed how helpful randomization can be with no sort of curation or customization.
In the last couple of years, platforms have actually removed away any hint of how vast they actually are. As an outcome, users just get to see a small sliver of a whole platform. There’s been an overwhelming push to construct tools particularly created for engagement (like buttons, emoji actions, comment threading) instead of building tools that assist users in fact check out. This has replaced any sense of play with a bleak struggle for users attention. The marketing line for these brand-new tools could easily be, “engage more, check out less.” I’m proposing that we start designing with vastness in mind once again. The information is already there, all we need to do as designers and engineers is to build tools that expose how extensive these platforms really are.
Thanks for reading this post. I’m an artist, designer, and designer based in New york city City presently looking for employment. I’m especially interested in assisting companies make their products more spirited and expansive. My e-mail is over here