Compared to a made-for-mobile app like Instagram, Kickstarter is a pretty complicated platform. You don’t just have an image you can like or comment on–you have a whole concept to explain, its media, its ticker, its tipping point, its reward structure, its backers, its creator, and more.
With all that in mind, it seems almost shocking that Kickstarter’s new iPhone app looks so similar to Instagram–or maybe Vine–as I load it for the first time. It’s simply a vertical feed of small, squarish videos with a headline and funding bar below. I scroll through 10 offers without a second thought. I’ve already perused more Kickstarter projects in a few seconds through this app than I have all week on their site.
Click on any video, and you’re brought to a more detailed deal page. (In the era of Vine, this is actually a slight faux pas. The app should just play the video right in your feed, but I digress.) This extra page features all of the details you’d expect, including those always-tempting rewards to backers. Pledging is as easy as clicking an omnipresent “back this project” button at the bottom of the page. Another really nice touch is that, when you pull beyond the top of the page, the video actually enlarges in response, then immediately shrinks when you let go. It’s a clever riff on stretching the borders of an app.
But why I find Kickstarter’s app most interesting really is in its UX role in light of larger design trends. It’s as if the entire industry is tacitly agreeing that single column, square image feeds with minimal text are becoming the de facto to consume multimedia on mobiles. We’ve given up on expecting people to turn phones sideways, and more clever gestures have been mostly ignored. This is it.
And it makes me wonder, is there an opportunity for a larger aggregator in this space? Could there be a sort of standardizing feed browser-style app (kind of like jQuery or Flipboard) that sucked in the APIs of various services to combine our social media feeds into one catch-all vertical funnel? Given that everyone is already using the same basic aesthetic approach anyway, this combined feed would be a pretty natural experience for end users. It could basically become the RSS for the social media age, or a more visual version of Twitter (basically Instagram with a whole lot more sources coming in).
It will be interesting to see if in the current touch-screen phone era, there will be another design paradigm to become so dominant. As of today, that doesn’t seem very likely.