Who? What?

In August 2003, engineers at Friendzy began developing their own ‘social network’—a web-based application designed to help people expand their network of personal and business relationships.

While only a few months behind the market, this delay posed a serious danger for a new entrant to the social network space, where success depends largely on the number of people added to a network. Moreover, a new entrant with little to offer that was new or different would face difficulties pulling people away from a more established network.

Why Bright Corner?

By the time Bright Corner was introduced to the project, a solid technology framework was already in place and engineers were working aggressively to hit a pre-established launch date. While Friendzy had a strong team of database engineers, they needed an outside group with experience in user-centered design to create the front end by which users would connect with each other.

Process / An application built around human patterns of behavior

Before designing any screens, Bright Corner consultants began by researching the ‘typical’ Friendzy user. Through a series of conversations with people both familiar and unfamiliar with the concept of a ‘social network’, we gained some basic insights into concerns about online privacy, stigmas associated with ‘dating’ sites, and other useful knowledge that would later help us with not only screen details, but with bigger ‘vision’ and brand discussions. While Friendzy had a solid list of features they were planning on developing, there was little in place to guide decisions about what was and was not a priority.

Based on an understanding of ‘real-world’ human behaviors, Bright Corner recommended building the Friendzy brand around a concept of “Self-expression.” From this platform came a flood of new and (more importantly) original ideas for technology enhancements.

Through a series of all-team workshops and design iterations, this brand vision was transformed into a bold, energetic visual identity—a hallmark of this project. The orange and yellow color combinations, recurring talk boxes, and other visual “signatures” were incorporated into everything from the design of the application interface to corporate identity materials to monthly eMail newsletters.

Next, we began the challenging process of creating screen details (wireframes) for every page. More than 70 unique pages (at launch) were created, and tested based on various scenarios. To fully explore the range of scenarios and possibilities, we created a testing lab where paper prototypes were taped to the wall and mapped to common tasks and process flows. Over the course of several weeks, team members and other participants were invited to this room to ‘test’ the system by walking through various scenarios. Screens were updated and changed to reflect our observations.

With a solid user interface, Bright Corner site developers began working with the Friendzy engineers to build and connect front end screens with backend data. Using a .NET framework (and tableless CSS?), Bright Corner was able to build out these screens ahead of schedule.

The Results?

Out of the dozens of social networking sites now available, Friendzy stands apart as a major player. In just a few months, Friendzy went from nonexistence to being one of only five sites selected by PC Magazine in a January 2004 roundup of social networks. Their network is growing strong. New enhancements—by-products of the research and vision documents produced by Bright Corner—are currently being developed. And, our visual contributions have helped to position them as a fun, youthful, expressive place to hang out online. Sound like fun? Check out the Friendzy site.


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