If you were to ask most folks about the one class in school that really defined who they are today and what they have become, you will get a variety of answers. Biology, English, journalism, history, and many others will top the list. Mine was economics. No other class helped me to better understand the crazy machinations of our world than economics. And it was in economics that I learned the fundamental principles of comparative advantage - if I am a consumer, show me why you are different than the other guy and give me a reason why I care.
I am reminded of those lessons and how fortunate I was to have them. Because when I look at an app like Jelly I realize the painful truth that none of their founders paid attention in economics. Had they, this review would
be much different.
The UX is pretty. Very pretty. Some may not like the implementation of “cards” similar to Google Now, but I actually don’t mind it. A crucial point has been lost in the whole skeuomorphic vs flat design debate, which is where skeuomorphism is functionally useful. Buttons are a great example, and some folks are still not completely comfortable with iOS 7’s lack of button borders. The use of the cards is another skeuomorphic trait, and Jelly uses it well. The physical card tilting when you swipe it away is a nice touch, and seeing that animation really encourages the user to employ more gestures in the app.
What doesn’t work
I could go into a diatribe here about the lack of a solid user base, the questionable utility of the app after all available questions have been answered, the motivations behind the founders, and about a dozen more. But the fact of the matter is, all these issues have the same root: this app’s function was never fully fleshed out. There is no comparative advantage to this using this app over literally any other method of getting answers out there.
A shortlist of the other options out there that can get you answers to, well, anything: Google. Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, Yelp, Reddit, StackOverflow, and WolframAlpha to name a few. And each of those have a comparative advantage over the other in one way or the other, yet still staying unique to itself. If I have a serious computer question that needs a serious solution, I go to StackOverflow. If I have a question about a restaurant, I go to Yelp. If I have a general question for friends, I go to Facebook. Because each of those have a unique user base, I’m more inclined to go to one over the other as their focus has been tailored around that unique user base and a unique problem. More importantly, each of those services were created almost directly as a platform for that unique user base.
There is no unique user base for Jelly because there is no unique problem it solves. In fact, the only possible unique user base for Jelly is the Silicon Valley elite. In that sense, Jelly is a Quora for the California startup elite who wouldn’t dare Google image search for a funny-looking bird like the rest of us uncultured rubes. If that was THE draw for investors, then the reality distortion field is strong with Jelly’s PR team.
Speaking honestly, a 1.0 software release doesn’t have to be feature rich. Hell, it’s not supposed to be. But it should do one thing very well and do it better than anyone else. That is why you do your market research, because pretty UX only gets you so far. Jelly is not the first service to poll the Internet Hive Mind for opinions (see Seesaw, which I wasn’t a fan of and it didn’t last long) and I have trouble coming up with a unique use for it that isn’t accomplished elsewhere. Shopping? Pinterest, or any Amazon reviews. Medicine? WebMD - and pictures would fall under a HIPAA issue. What shoes to pair with clothes? What things to see in [insert city]? Whether it’s worthwhile getting a new gadget? I don’t understand what makes Jelly a better platform for these things than any other option out there. Especially when there’s no categories or sorting/searching options.
If the intention for Jelly was to just float this thing out there and see what becomes of it, then Jelly has succeeded. Because that’s literally all it does: float aimlessly. It needs to tighten its focus and show us what it’s actually good at and why it’s better than anything else out there. Otherwise, like a jellyfish, it’ll be a loose neural network without an actual brain.
1 out of 5