Flipboard: Confirming vision of dynamic design

One central thesis we have at Urban Aesthete is that visual design is an important differentiator in technology, and specifically in software and information presentation. Many tech companies are able to deliver the guts of a product, but few can take those fundamentals and create a compelling aesthetic vision. Clearly Apple does this very successfully, but it lacks the scalability of open-source, industry-wide solutions. The vision we have of the future is one where interface is pivotal, and dynamically adjustable across devices. Concept drives algorithm, which then intelligently puts together a beautiful, designed solution. Instead of custom pixel editing, we are moved by a set of driving principles — a visual architecture.

The recent Flipboard release reflects exactly this thinking and this emergent movement. The application’s guts are similar to that of a long-existing technology, the RSS reader. However, the presentation is crisp, intelligent and beautiful. Even more significantly, it is an automated, dynamic overlay on top of the churning mass of social media.

We have seen a symmetric development in Mint.com, which is also a front-end overlay for Yodlee.com. Today, Mint.com has over 1 million users. Flipboard is seeing similar growth in numbers. Here is what the CEO has to say about the first day of launch:

It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. We thought it would take a while for people to understand the concept and get used to it and download it. I didn’t realize that it would be explosive – that within seconds people would be downloading it by the thousands.

The other thing I didn’t anticipate was the way that people used the product. They use it far more intensely than I thought they would. When people started downloading it they were flipping back to 2009 on their Facebook pages. It was crazy! They just sat there just flipping. Flipping, flipping, flipping, flipping. That stuff takes server time. We have to build pages for every few hundred posts that we go out and get.

You ever see that UPS commercial where they go live with a website and there was this group standing around and nothing happens as they’re looking at a counter, and then it goes up to 1 and they’re like “YAY”, and then 10 and they’re like “YEAHH!”, and then it climbs up to like thousands and they’re like “Uh-Oh”, it was totally like that man, it was exactly like that commercial.

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