I love the way the new tumblr app lets you customize the the way your blog looks inside the tumblr app. It plays with our expectations of what an app is, giving this kind of customization that is generally associated with something on the web. I know it is somewhat designing on the rails tumblr lays down for you, but I feel like we will see some people very cleverly subvert this tool soon. There are also some neat design experiments in there like this:
Picking an accent color also changes the interface surrounding your blog for anyone who visits it. When I tapped Save after editing my blog’s appearance, the app’s Compose button turned pink and its navigation bar turned white to match my chosen Accent Color and background. The effect is particularly stark on iPad, where tapping into a blog dresses up the entire app in a new color.
That quote is from the story on The Verge profiling tumblr’s ethos that led to the new this new feature. Some more quotes:
“In the early 2000s, [the web] started to take a pretty sharp turn towards vanilla, white profile pages,” says Karp. To him, Facebook’s stark white pages weren’t refreshing like they were to MySpace refugees — they were restrictive. “The draw to the internet for me was this idea that it was a space where you could really create an expression of yourself — an identity that you’re really, truly proud of.” Karp saw sites like LiveJournal, Blogger, and GeoCities disappearing by the day. “Social networking” sites, where every username was printed in the exact same font, were winning out.
Tumblr’s vision for social profiles stands largely at odds with the design philosophies of many tech startups, which create products and profiles that look the same to every user on every platform. Their interfaces are designed to be highly accessible and legible over all else, but Tumblr thinks there’s more room for personalization than you might think. “People confuse consistency with customization,” says Derek Gottfrid, Tumblr’s vice president of product. Karp is more precise with the finger-pointing. “I think that right now, the Valley is very tuned for communication, social, and very utilitarian tools, and I think a lot of that is built around their ‘engineers will show us the way’ mindset,” he says, “where something we’ve always tried to instill here, and always tried to hire for, is that the creators are going to show us the way. We’re here to empower them.”
This line between something that is controlled, engineered to match some standard of aesthetics and usability and something that is highly customizable yet chaotic is a line I find myself exploring every day in my job as director of the TLT Studio. So, it is with much interest that I take note on what tumblr is doing to balance (or non-balance) these ideas.