“The biggest difference between other platforms and Vebbler is that it is a ‘personal network’” – Sahil Bhagat, Founder, Vebbler.com
In an exclusive interview to Mouseworld Now, Vebbler.com Founder Mr. Sahil Bhagat, reveals his business priorities, plans, message to the channel community and much more. Here are the edited excerpts…
Q. Please tell us in detail about Vebbler.com
Ans. Vebbler is a new personal network built with a mission to create a world where people have more meaningful conversations with different relationships in their lives without one aspect of their life spilling into another. Vebbler went into beta on July 23rd, 2013 and rolled out its first Invites on July 28th, 2013.
There is now an echo in the social media community that, platforms have become very impersonal and is consist of too much clutter. We say, ‘Adding 1000 people and not connecting with most isn’t being social. Adding 100 people and connecting with most is. Building relationships isn’t a number game.’ People now understand that in real life we don’t have 800-1000 friends, and we don’t talk in 140 characters. You don’t interact with your family the same way you interact with your friends. There is no platform in the market that provides a personal space to talk equally and freely to every relationship in your life, whether it’s your friends, your mother or even your Boss.
The focus has shifted away from the user to the advertiser, which is flooding people’s Feeds. Everybody wants a more personal, clutter-free social experience to connect with their true friends and most valued relationships, so at Vebbler, we are putting the focus back into our biggest asset, ‘the user’.
Since its time of opening Invites, Vebbler has seen overwhelming responses from people outside India, including countries like USA, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Philippines, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Norway and Australia.
The birth of Vebbler dates back to the time, when I was about to begin work on another social network of sorts two years ago called Frogster. It was a network for causes and people who were passionate about causes could come together and share ideas. I was also provided seed funding from a company in Delhi. But before we began to execute the idea, I realized that especially in a country like India, there was not enough scope to scale a platform like this, and there was a need for a bigger, more holistic network in which causes could be one part of the ecosystem.
There was also a privacy scare around then and it still continues till today. Parents, teachers and colleagues were adding one another and just then we realized we wanted to build a layered and personal centric social network.
Vebbler has launched with the following features:
- Clubs (for personal sharing): Clubs are a core element of Vebbler’s user experience, which allows a user to add a person into different layers, such as friends, family, workmates and acquaintances. This enables a user to have an entirely separate space for sharing with each relationship.
- Followers (for public sharing): While keeping the closest 500 people in your Clubs, you can follow as many people you find interesting. This makes Vebbler a great platform for public conversations too, while keeping your private life intact.
- Bigger, Better Photos: Profile photos are big again and photographs are stored in high quality, making Vebbler a delightful platform for photographers and photography enthusiasts.
- ~Wavetags: Move over Hashtags. Now, start a ~Wave! Build conversations in real time, follow waves that interest you and see its popularity with the Wave-O-Meter.
- Search: Social search is beyond searching things by name. Searching interests, photos, waves and conversations around a particular topic creates a more intuitive search experience.
Q. What’s the USP of Vebbler.com?
Ans. Personal Networking Model: The biggest difference between other platforms and Vebbler is that it is a ‘personal network’ and not a quintessential social network. The personal network model focuses not on ‘Adding More People’ but ‘Sharing More with Existing People’. It invests in real relationships, making it ‘exclusive’ and provides a comfortable sharing environment to talk more freely with different people in your life.
Layered and Group-Based Sharing: We play so many roles in the real world and yet connect in a one dimensional way online. Today our parents are on social media and so are our Bosses and Teachers. There is a need for a more evolved way of connecting beyond ‘Add Friend’ which easily adds people into different layers so that there is an entirely separate space to connect with each relationship.
Vebbler has a layered two-way relationship model which is a part of the ‘core user experience’. We call this the ‘Crowd Layering Model’, which drives us to layer every product and feature, we design based on a person’s relationships. Google+ follows a one way relationship model and Facebook’s Friends List is not a core feature (for example: You may add someone to a List but the other person may not add you back into a List.)
Q. What noticeable trend do you see in the Indian social web world now? Where does the Indian social web industry is heading now?
Ans. India has grown to become one of the most powerful markets in social media userbase in the World. We generate the second highest number of userbase after the US. We have 100+ million internet users and 60+ million mobile internet users, and these numbers are expected to multiply 4 times in the next two years, making India a potential market for having its own homegrown network.
Yet, India remains a service-based and outsourcing Industry with companies like Wipro and TCS. The smartest IT minds are working on products outside India. The only product companies that were sustaining in the market before 2012 were marriage and match-making portals such as Shaadi.com and BharatMatrimony.com.
However, 2012 saw a rise in the e-Commerce industry with names such as Flipkart.com, Myntra.com and Jabong.com taking lead. The biggest challenge for them, however would be to effectively monetize the product owing to India’s current retail scenario.
If 2012 was the year of e-Commerce, 2013 will be the year of Social, and we’re hoping that Vebbler will lead that trend.
Q. Social Media and Networking sites use a unique consistent color combination across the site to give it an Iconic look. For example, Facebook uses a consistent flow of blue color that marks the identity of the site. Any such visual specification planned for Vebbler?
Ans. A flat and vibrant colour always has recall value and we have used an interesting tone of red in our logo as well as other elements of the Site (repost icons, dividing stripes, connect button). Hex value: #FF4967.
However, unlike other networks, we have a core design philosophy, that the UI should only complement the vibrancy of a user’s content and not over shadow it. The UI should be enriched by a user’s photos, videos and links and the layout should be designed to make it prominent and rich. This style is also implemented by web applications like Pinterest and static sites like that of Apple’s.
Thus we have keep the background to a very neutral colour i.e. light grey which could seamlessly gel with any user content, and supported it with touched of white, back and red.
Q. The logo of a Social media site is such that it leaves a deep impression in the memory of the user in a flash of time. What’s unique about Vebbler’s logo?
Ans. When we first ideated the logo design, we knew right then that we didn’t want to just create something like a favicon, with a static colour and the first letter of our product. We wanted the logo to reflect what the company is all about. And we wanted it to be vibrant.
Vebbler’s logo design is deeply rooted in what we’re trying to build. And this is also reflected in our beta ad campaign ‘A New World Is Born’.
Here are some of the things that people have interpreted when they first saw the logo:
“Unity in Diversity: There are many diverse cultures, traditions and people (as shown by different colours and different sizes of the circles) and they are yet united (The circle illusion that gets created as a result of the placement of the individual circles)through a platform like Vebbler.”
“Space for all Relationships: We play so many different roles in our relationships with people (again, as shown by different colours and different sizes of the circles) and we have this central platform called Vebbler to connect with each of them (The circle illusion that gets created as a result of the placement of the individual circles)”
Q. Simplicity in user interface is a common characteristic of social media and networking websites. For example: Twitter has probably one of the most minimalistic social user interfaces. Do you think vivid visual design can make social networking sites more vibrant? How is Vebbler’s current look in this regard?
Ans. Vebbler’s biggest attraction is its clean and visually stunning user interface. Most pages have a simple two-column layout with the main content on the left and related content on the right. Since the templates were thought of right from the beginning, all pages have a consistent UI.
However, responsive layouts are in and we have tried to implement that wherever possible, including our photo albums. Hence, photos on Vebbler can be seen on any device or desktop.
Q. A common feature in social applications is the use of live search results and filtering. How robust is Vebbler’s search functionality?
Ans. Vebbler’ssearch is built to connect you not only to people by searching their names, but also finding people with similar interests, search for waves as well as photos and conversations around a particular keyword.
Furthermore, you can connect and follow people, follow waves, filter whose updates you’d like to see, as well as remove connections directly from your search box.
Q. Call-to-action-buttons are used by networking sites to motivate users to actions. How does Vebbler make use of this feature to attract and retain user loyalty? Do they have any hover effects?
Ans. Call-to-action buttons are used in every page and feature of the Site to increase user engagement and loyalty. These buttons are also enhanced with vibrant colours.
The button which has a hover effect is the red Connect button. Since clubs are a core of the user experience, whenever a person hovers over to connect with a person, a drop down opens asking the user whether he would like to add the person in friends, family, work or acquaintance.
Q. Iconic Cameron Moll once mentioned “good designers treat text as content, while great designers treat text as user interface. What is Vebbler’s take on it?
Ans. We strongly go by this saying when we design our products and features that ‘A great product is not about what you make, but how you present it.’
Since text is a core element to any dynamic Site like ours, it is important that the font chosen seamlessly blends with the UI, completing it.
While we knew the limitations of @font-face and Google fonts due to its fouting problem, we have optimized Open Sans and Open Sans Light and used it in our headings,titles and links to give a very rich feel to our text.
We have also used one of the most popular fonts for the web, Verdana for our body text. Lucida Grande, which is used by many other networks, does not render well in Windows and hence it’s suggested that people use Calibri for the Windows environment. Verdana, on the other hand, renders almost the same on any browser or OS, making it our preferred font. Also, the wave symbol ‘~ (Calbri)’ ‘~ (Verdana)’is rendered beautifully in Verdana, and since Waves are a core element of the product, it tabled the fact that we should use Verdana.
Q. Micro-blogging services have rocked over the last few years due to their ability to bring “real-time” dimension to social interaction on the Web. Twitter and others have delivered many-ways-conversations to the Web. Does Vebbler deliver any such feature to help users to observe what happens right now in their social graph in real-time?
Ans. Our Life Stream and Waves Page are both real-time pages. The Life Stream shows you updates from your relationships while the Waves page should you results around a particular wave topic.
Not only does the wave page show you real-time updates, but it also shows you a real-time graph and a Wave-O-Meter (imagine a TRP system for conversations where people can determine how popular a wave is) that updates in real-time based on the conversation taking place.
Q. How do you view the technique of personalization to offer more flexible and more adaptive user interfaces?
Ans. Personalization can greatly enhance the user experience of a Site. Empowering a person to personalize elements around the Site in a way that’s comfortable to him or her makes a person feel like they are at ‘home’.
However, there is a very thin line between personalization and noise. As a designer, I believe that sites like Twitter and the Old MySpace, which offer personalization at every level including changing the colour of headings, fonts as well as the background, risk several accounts having a cluttered design, simply because that individual does not have an aesthetic sense of colour and design.
Also, owing to so much personalization, the layout is not cross compatible. For example, mobile app versions of these products do not incorporate personalization into their interface.
Hence, personalization needs to be thought of in a way whereby it can be de-cluttered and cross compatible. And as a design-first company, we hope to achieve that.
Q. Social applications put the user in the middle of the application, focusing on the little details of users’ profiles, suggesting new friends, interests, events, groups etc. to extend their social circles and intensify user engagement. Any such feature on Vebbler?
Ans. On Vebbler we have the following elements to increase their user engagement:
- Ability for a person to invite 10 of their connections to Vebbler.
- Emailers informing users which users have joined Vebbler thanks to them.
- Trending waves everytime they log in.
- People They May Know based on their mutual connections, education and work place.
- Ability to connect with the team and provide feedback on the product.
- A profile widget with all information in brief about a user in search.
© Mouseworld Now News Service