Should technology stand out or blend in?
When technology says “me too”.
How many times do we pause to pay attention to the things we use on a daily basis? I, for one, have often found myself using products and bumping into the latest updates as I accidentally discover them.
I have always been one to stay in constant touch with my close friends over video calls. And now with the pandemic, there is no denying that video conferencing has become a stand in for in-person interactions in our weekday 9–5 routine as well.
I personally use platforms and applications such as WhatsApp, Instagram, Zoom and Google Duo on a fairly regular basis, as do most of you.
Off late, quite a few interesting and good-to-have introductions to product features around the social media and videoconferencing arena have emerged. In fact, many of the features in these recent times seem to have been imbibed and derived from other products in the league.
Instagram, earlier this year, launched a feature that lets you ‘Co-Watch’ feed with your friends over a video call. Truth be told, the idea wasn’t something unheard of, but was one that would in all probability be received very well by avid Instagram users.
And very recently, Facebook Messenger incorporated mobile screen sharing. So did Google Duo. What’s intriguing though is how Instagram creatively leveraged the concept and molded it into something fun to have.
To think of it, Screen Sharing is not just a workplace mandate. Whether you are a Scrum Master sharing the sprint board on a DSM call, a student walking your team through your calculations on an excel sheet for a group assignment, or someone who likes to laugh with friends while browsing memes on a call, screen sharing is a great-to-have feature.
But if we take a step back, we will realize that with almost every social media application offering similar capabilities (both on mobile and desktop), the products have almost become synonymous. And this is not limited to just video calls.
LinkedIn’s recent ‘story’ feature looks like it has been derived from Facebook and WhatsApp, and the ‘double tap to like’ from Instagram.
And while it’s wonderful to have so many features at the tip of our fingers and so many options to choose from, I feel that the individual identity of these platforms is getting diluted. To be honest, LinkedIn, a professional networking platform, need not look and feel like Facebook to me.
Just as Microsoft teams, a business communication platform, need not have face filters like Snapchat and Instagram. After all, one is casual, and the other, formal. Do we really want them all to be the same and interchangeably so?
Amidst the race of who has the most number of users, our vision of the essence of the very product is getting blurred increasingly and it's about time we contemplate. While designing products in an attempt to enhance user experience, companies should keep in mind the perception and mind frame of users behind these features.
The double tap to like was a great way to make liking pictures easier for users(both on IG and LinkedIn). The Story feature however mostly falls on the idea of posting casual social snaps that expire after 24 hours, an idea that does not apply very well to a professional networking platform.
Before we incorporate every feature that is popular amongst the users, we need to ask ourselves ‘ Why and under what circumstances are these features most preferred.’
You could be someone who likes to wear shorts with a tank top, AND pencil skirts. But in all probability, you will wear the pencil skirt with a blazer to work, and shorts to a house party.
So, do we really want these products to blend in? Or do we want them to stand out in their own uniform?