Despite the lack of updates I’ve been (ironically) thinking about keeping things fresh, for web services that is. This is something that affects services that cater to users and rely on the community to support it.
It’s hard to imagine a world where MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, or whatever doesn’t dominate but back in the day Yahoo and GeoCities was king. Once you have a trillion registered users it really doesn’t matter what you do because you’re still going to generate traffic and still going to generate money even if you don’t add any functions or refresh the design.
Still, there’s a definite point where things go “stale”. It has nothing to do with how usable the site is or if the design is kicking. It’s more of a vibe you get. We see so many services launch with flashy web 2.0-inspired designs that don’t pack any thunder and vanish as quick as they come. We also see things like Twitter that wouldn’t actually look out of place in the 90s but making waves in the present.
I think it happens when the people who should be the most passionate about your product start going through the motions. The point where they don’t care what you say or do. Unfortunately, once you reach that point it’s like a marriage on the rocks. You can separate or go to counseling but you’re basically biding your time before the inevitable.
It can be a mix of things but for me I start noticing the disconnect when I no longer care about new features or using the service just wears me down. The usual progression is from anger to frustration to apathy. Like they say about love/hate relationships, sometimes love and hate are two sides of the same coin. Apathy always kills.
This sort of ties in to my previous post about features. When I find a new service or piece of software I usually get excited when I see an active developer continually improving the product. If they’re open to suggestions from the community it makes it all the better. Still, as it reaches maturity both sides start getting cautious about “fixing what isn’t broken.” Too much of a change can unleash a massive flamefest (especially if it means removing something). Yet the funny thing is after a good while, people simply stop caring that much. It gets to be “one of those apps” that are out there. They don’t drop by too often or have simply stopped coming. Nothing makes me lose interest in something more than having to wade through a million abandoned account names just to set my login name. Again, there’s a vibe.
To come to think about it I can’t think of one “social” website that’s held my interest for more than a couple years. There’s always so much talk about “makeovers” and “reinventing yourself” in real life but what’s the equivalent for the web? Something like Netscape where you re-appropriate a domain and give it a whole new purpose to exist? Or maybe follow the GYM way of buying little startups so at least your portfolio stays fresh.
PS Yes, I’ll get back to your comments sometime soon hopefully and yes I appreciate them