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Vine introduced a desktop website earlier this year which was a risible experience at best. Thankfully in the last couple of months things have significantly improved.
As I said in my post published at the time of launch 13 major UX flaws in social media sites, the idea that a platform as supposedly trend-setting as Vine didn’t have a desktop presence is frankly ludicrous.
Plus, as I kept moaning about in my monthly Vine round-ups, the lack of a searchable homepage has made the writing of these articles a much more long-winded exercise than necessary.
Will my job be any easier thanks to the new look desktop site? Let's see.
'Before' as in 'after Vine introduced a desktop site'. Before that point there was nothing.
After I had been using Vine on mobile for most of 2013, in January 2014 I finally had access to my own Vine profile on a desktop.
Once again, please ignore the piddling number of followers I had. I wish I could say things have improved since then. It's more my problem rather than Vine's.
Vine’s major mistake was using its rival Instagram's desktop feed as a template.
So what did this 'homage' mean for Vine users? No search function. Two identical home buttons at the top of the page. Non-clickable buttons for ‘followers’ and ‘following’. The user also had to leave Vine in order to find a particular user they wished to follow.
There was also no 'follow' button on the individual members' pages, which seems like another missed opportunity for brands and regular Viners alike.
So what’s new?
As you can see it has a much improved homepage. In fact I probably could have just written ‘it has a homepage’ and be impressed enough, being as all you could do before is view your own or other users’ feeds.
The most noticeable thing about this update is that it shares similar qualities with YouTube. Mainly that all of the content is available to anyone and there is no sign-in required.
Other decent features include an Editor’s Pick, fairly central to the page and the sweetly designed flat boxes to the left of the homepage that take you directly to themed playlists populated by users adding to that specific channel. The best of which are featured below the Editor’s Pick.
Featured and popular Viners are also heavily highlighted on the homepage too, making the new site feel like it's genuinely a community and that this may just be the perfect online hub to bring it all together.
Above all of this however is the one feature I’ve been crying out for - search. Finally, there’s a search box, and it works a treat!
You can search for individual users…
Or if you type in something more nebulous it will bring up results for users, locations and tags.
As for any improvements, it would be nice if user’s profile pages could be personalised beyond picking a colour for the background. Perhaps like YouTube you could set a channel header image and pin a specific Vine to the top. Then again, this is a mobile-first channel and therefore simplicity of UX and design is a must for quick and efficient use.
Or the immediate present at least… In the last 24 hours Vine has published an update that has in some ways blown the world of social video wide-open and delivered a blow to the perceived dominance of Instagram video.
You can now import any footage from pre-existing videos on your smartphone. Allowing you to mix and edit multiple sources into your Vine. Which also means you can include those cool slo-motion videos you’ve been making with your iPhone 5. (Please note that the Android update is forthcoming).
Vine has also introduced a much needed ‘undo’ button and allowed access to the phone’s torch function.
It seems that in the last couple of months, Vine has genuinely listened to what its users wanted and given it to them. Which in an increasingly crowded social video market, may be the key to winning new users and fostering loyalty in its existing community.