The Boneyard Principle


Most successful consumer social products walk through a boneyard of failures before achieving victory.

Before TikTok came Vine, before Tinder came Match.com, and before Instagram and Snap came Flickr. Each of these groups shared the similar high-level ideas of social video, dating, or social photos. But the boneyard often hid big ideas in plain sight. “There are very few genuinely new ideas,” as Marc Andreessen observes. “Invention happens over long periods of time, by lots of very smart people playing each others’ ideas against each other.”

Why do some consumer social products finally make it big after a series of misses? Part of the magic often hides within UX details — particularly, those that help people make fewer decisions and take fewer risks. The more opinionated an app is about how it should be used, the easier it is for users to act without fear of rejection. Products benefit from giving people the plausible deniability to say: “I’m not seeking attention, I’m just doing what this app tells me to do!”

To see how this works in practice, let’s observe a breakthrough UX approach that transformed a category with multiple previous failures— short-form looping video—to create one of the largest successes of all time.

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