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June 21, 2007 @ 8:20 AM

Social Search

Sometimes the right answer to a question is a discussion - a mosaic of answers. Enter Fluther, a great little project I found over at Cameron Moll’s Authentic Jobs. In redesigning their site, Co-owners Andrew McClain and Ben Finkel wanted an identity and user experience that would set them apart from sites like Metafilter, and Yahoo Answers. It was an rewarding collaboration.

Being Different.
One thing competitors in the social search space had in common were very plain, very generic “Web 2.0” looking interfaces. Just being something specific can sometimes be a powerful brand differentiator. After building an identity spectrum, we were quickly able to agree specifically on how the identity should “feel”. And the name Fluther (meaning a pod of jellyfish) gave me the perfect starting point to visualize these attributes.

identity study

The idea? You ask a question. Fluther connects you to people with a wide range of experience on your topic. Ya’ll chat about the answer. Your profile develops, and soon you get questions from your areas of expertise.

The easiest way to understand Fluther was to use it - to ask a question. Before any wireframing, we invested some time in determining how to make understanding Fluther an easier user experience.

site map

Trust was central to the success of this project. iChat AV helped blur the line nicely between client and contractor (in a way email and instant messaging can’t), making our relationship feel much more like a unified development team. Decisions could be made, problems solved, in a real-time collaborative manner. Definitely a tool I plan on using more with clients.


Check it out.
So… Go. Now. Ask. Let me know what you think?


block quoteGreat job, Mark. I love this design. It's a breath of fresh air in an over saturated web-2-oh world.

Posted 06-21-2007, 12:51 pm, by Sean S


block quoteMark, it's a rare and delightful pleasure to see your name pop up in my RSS reader. smile

So what advantage does this firm claim to provide over other such answers/forum sites? Allowing any topic seems like the scope gets too big pretty quickly.

Posted 06-21-2007, 01:41 pm, by Clifton


block quote@Sean - Thanks so much! smile

@Clifton - Thanks, and they're doing all sorts of things differently. One interesting difference is a real-time discussion area. A lot like Twitter, you can potentially get answers as soon as you've asked the question - without refreshing the page.

I actually like the wide-openess of the topics. Really feels democratic to me. We'll see how it affects them long-term.

These guys also have a deep commitment to "doing things better" rather than "having more features". It was great to work with people who think that way.

Posted 06-21-2007, 02:04 pm, by Mark Bixby


block quoteLooks great, Mark! I just asked a question and the process was quite straightforward. The jellyfish metaphor certainly makes the site stand out from the crowd! Nicely done!

Posted 06-21-2007, 06:45 pm, by Andrew Hedges


block quote(By the way, I love love love "span.amp". You were at "Web Typography Sucks" weren't you?) wink

Posted 06-21-2007, 07:39 pm, by Sean S


block quoteFantastic work - love the jellyfish id

Posted 06-21-2007, 11:37 pm, by Andy Field


block quoteRockin' site overall.

I haven't had a chance to check it out too thoroughly, but UX is definitely top notch.

My only question would be why the move to optimize for 1024px and higher resolutions? the site design seems like a good candidate for some clever elastic design.

Posted 06-22-2007, 09:02 am, by Angelo


block quote@Sean - Yep, I was there, but span.amp was all Fluther (Andrew). He did a fantastic job translating the design!

@ Andy - Thanks!

@ Angelo - I think it was based on their usage stats, our time table, and me being mildly anal about controlling the grid. We had some other huge challenges to overcome from a UX perspective, so that choice kinda made itself.

Perhaps in the next rev... :D

Posted 06-22-2007, 11:57 am, by Mark Bixby


block quoteCome on, Mark; don't tease us with a cropped version of that gorgeous site map/site flow diagram. Any chance you'd be willing to post that (or at least send it to me to steal learn from)?

Posted 06-25-2007, 08:03 am, by Dan Mall


block quoteHey Dan. I'm lucky they let me show that much! smile

I have some better (read: more elaborate) examples, and will probably write a post on site maps soon (thanks for the idea). I think they are hugely important, along with deconstructed wireframes when developing your UX.

Posted 06-25-2007, 08:18 am, by Mark Bixby


block quoteThat's some serious design luv! Really sweet design and nice flow. And I like the site map, especially how you detailed things down to the interface object level, very similar in concept with what I presented at the IA Summit. I think site maps and diagrams need a good dose of detail. Write about it soon! wink

Posted 06-25-2007, 08:32 am, by Kevin Silver


block quoteLooking good Mark! Love the identity. It feels quite intuitive and easy to use. Cheers on ya, man. smile

Posted 06-27-2007, 05:09 am, by Blake


block quoteAwesome job Mark! Great colour scheme, nicely balanced layout and just such a great little icon/logo. Kudos!

Posted 06-27-2007, 06:05 am, by Scott


block quoteBeautiful work!

Posted 06-27-2007, 09:12 am, by Jared Christensen


block quoteKevin, Blake, Scott and Jared - Thanks SO much! I have to give Fluther a lot of credit for trusting me to make good design decisions. They really let me run with it, and hopefully that shows in the finished product.

Posted 06-27-2007, 12:19 pm, by Mark Bixby


block quoteHmm, perfect example of what can happen if a client gives a competent designer actual control. Seriously. smile Unfortunately the site I've been working on the last seven weeks has fallen into the clutches of client fears and tacky tastes. We'll see if we can turn that final corner and cross the finish line.

Posted 06-28-2007, 11:11 am, by Blake


block quoteLooks awesome! I love the illustrations and the original palette. You should turn the little jellyfish dude with glasses into your gravatar smile

Posted 07-12-2007, 06:41 am, by beth


block quoteAs a moderator (and long-time member) of Fluther, I just wanted to say thanks for the great job you did with the site's design. It's truly a pleasure to see and work with every day!

Posted 05-21-2009, 04:08 pm, by augustlan


block quoteCool story bro

Posted 02-16-2010, 05:39 pm, by Rob Goodlatte


block quoteCoool. Yeah.

Posted 10-29-2010, 04:56 pm, by Luke Dorny


block quotei absolutely love the design! IMHO the design is wrong for this kind of service, Fluther suld looked like Quora..

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