When UX Fails: The Multiply Case

Last year, when Multiply decided to leave the social world by closing down its social network platform, I wrote an article outlining what I observed about Multiply. I was actually a casual user, and since I began with UX it’s one of my favorite destinations for observing Indonesian Web 2.0 users.

The closure of the social network platform actually stopped the function of Multiply as a social shopping system. It was just only shopping, no longer social. I observed the system going toward eBay style, which I believed was not easy to be pushed upon Indonesian e-commerce users. Moreover, Tokobagus was already a big player in serving this style of e-commerce system.

What Multiply forgot was studying its existing users. Indonesian users are famous for violating TOS on social networking sites. Countless shops were opened in Facebook, and many of them do not follow Facebook’s TOS of using a page instead of a profile for a storefront. Indeed some profiles with the “shop” name on them were deleted by Facebook without prior notice due to this violation.

What does this tell us about the way Indonesian users like to perform e-commerce? They like to do it social. Sellers and buyers like to know each other well. If we make a comparison to offline commerce, apparently many Indonesians like to shop while chatting with the shop owners like the way they do at “ITC” shops, unlike the department store style.

Failing to study users is definitely the main failure point in UX. The next failure point is failing to study the current system. Multiply was built by a team in Boca Raton, USA, and then sold to Naspers and moved to South East Asia. It might have had a total change both in the management team and the development team (I’m not sure who were left from the original team).

Multiply had already have a good interaction design, some of which I admired due to its niche compared to Facebook and other social networking sites. It is probably the only social networking system that has successfully made a very good friendship with a blogging system. I remember the days I was blogging at a typical blog site, some of my regular fellow blogger visitors decided to move to Multiply due to its security of having only certain people read their blogs.

Although the social blogging system was taken over by Facebook Notes due to its bigger user base, the blogging feature in Multiply was not rendered useless. It was used by shop owners to write stories about their products and customer testimonials. This is another niche. And this is a proof of advanced UX, where storytelling is used in interacting with customers. In this case, storytelling conveys emotion and other details for a better customer experience before and after shopping.

While storytelling has been a traditional way of offline marketing like what we used to see in traditional markets in Indonesia, it has been forgotten in online marketing. Do we know that the discipline of UX covers digital products as well as traditional merchandise? There is a lot to learn about the users of e-commerce systems. It is culturally specific. It is all part of UX.

The series of User Experience (UX) posts is brought to you by Qonita Shahab, a researcher in UX who used to work in IT. Her interest in music and photography helps her in designing interactive system prototypes. Since she started research in the field of persuasive technology, Qonita studied more about social psychology and the communal use of technology. Follow her on Twitter @uxqonita.

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