Facebook launched Slingshot, its answer to Snapchat, this week to mixed reviews. Some loved its sleek design and some thought it was too little, too late. I thought the most interesting observation was made by TechCrunch and is a worthwhile product debate: will curiosity triumph over friction?
In Slingshot, your friends and contacts send you images but you can only view them if you send an image back. You can send one photo to multiple recipients thereby unlocking several images sent to you. Facebook is hoping that user’s curiosity at seeing what was sent to them will triumph over the hassle of creating the content to send back.
This approach is counter-intuitive to app design. Usually the goal is simplicity and ease of use. Make it as smooth and intuitive as possible for users to do what you want them to do. In Slingshot’s case Facebook is making the app harder to use, hoping that more people will generate more content. It could work fantastically if users buy into the model or it could flop if users think it isn’t worth the effort.
I think there are several scenarios where curiosity can triumph over friction in a product:
- The payoff makes sense given the effort. Look at checkout options today. It’s at least a three-page process. Gather stuff into cart, enter billing info, enter shipping info, etc. We do it because we want to buy something and think this is a small price to pay for the convenience of online shopping. With Slingshot you’re essentially being forced to reply before you’ve had a chance to see what you’re replying to. You’re not sure what the “value” of what you’re getting in return for your efforts.
- There aren’t other alternatives. When shopping, you could also go to the store to pick and item up, an option with its own level of friction. When exchanging photos, there are so many other options out there that I don’t think you can get users to work hard to share one.
- The friction isn’t that bad. I’ve been seeing a “press to see more” button when reading articles on some news sites recently. So instead of loading a full page, I have to invest another click a few paragraphs in. I assume this gives the site more info about reading habits but it’s easy enough to do, so I don’t mind. It’s fiction, but it’s almost painless. Slingshot’s requirements are a bit of a hassle.
- The app was created by a big player. Facebook has the clout get people to try Slingshot and to possibly pull this off. If this were a new start-up introducing this as a new model, I doubt it would catch on.
Is it a Snapchat killer? I don’t think so. Snapchat revolutionized photo sharing by tossing out the rule book. Images would disappear forever after a single view. They made it fast and easy to just send a photo and reduced friction (or, shall we say removed inhibition?) by promising that the image would be immediately deleted. There’s no reason to spend time and effort beautifying a photo if it’s going to be gone in an instant. Just sent it.
Would I change anything? I really like the concept of exchanging (slinging) photos between users as a conversation, especially on a one-on-one basis. The way Slingshot is set up now is that it makes more sense to unlock photos from several people by sending all of them the same photo than to answer them individually. If the unlocking concept was removed, I think there would be greater motivation to sling photos back and forth, increasing usage, but removing that would defeat everything that Facebook is trying to change with Slingshot.
So would I change anything? No.