Must community websites be badly designed?

Everyone’s heard of it and I’m sure you’ve mistakenly fallen into that trap a few times as well – clicked on a link and found yourself at some blindess-inducing Myspace page – filled with flashing colours and annoying looped background music that leaves you scrambling for both the volume control and the close button on your browser at the same time.

It appears that Myspace is not the only website where such idiotic things happen.

I was recently asked by one of my good friends to join Orkut, which is probably the grand-daddy of the whole “make a profile, leave comments, join a group” type social websites. I joined up, saw my friend’s “friends list”, added a few friends – so far so good.

One person I added decides to leave a scrap (Orkut term for a comment) on my profile page. I see it, click on reply, enter some text and click “submit”. I get a message saying “Success! Your scrap has been saved on <friend’s> scrapbook“. In case you missed my emphasis, that’s “friend’s scrapbook“.

Which genius came up with this design? There’s a reason why all sites where people discuss various things starting from BBS’es to forums follow a threaded, date-stamped model. It’s just more intutive and easy to follow.

As a user and an IT Business Analyst, I’m horrified at this design. Take this (admittedly hypothetical) situation – you have a friend on Orkut – you leave two “scraps”:

1. “Coming to the party this week?”
2. “You want to do lunch today?”

He replies “No” and “Yes”. What do you see? On your scrapbook, two messages:

1. “No”
2. “Yes”.

So which one’s for which? Imagine a more complex scenario, you and your friend are discussing (via Orkut) how to mod a PC.. can you imagine the confusion a messaging interface like Orkut’s would cause?

Why can’t everyone just stick to the basics??