Flud Web App Goes Beta – Potential for a Social Network

Flud (pronounced flood) is a start-up that we’re rather familiar with here at The Industry, as I’ve personally written about their application and their Founder, Bobby Ghoshal has also done a guest post.

Flud started out as a news discovery and sharing application on iOS and from there has now been incorporated into the three main mobile platforms. However, there’s always been a feeling that something is missing from the experience. Sure we spend more time on our phones than ever before and mobile is without a doubt the future, but sometimes there needs to be more than mobile.

Problem and Solution

Day after day I spend countless hours browsing my collection of daily blogs. It’s how I stay up to date with the latest products, services, and news around the world. I’ve always wondered, though. What if we had a desktop solution that allowed us to easily draw in all of those feeds into one centralized platform; a platform that is visually appealing and also allows for meaningful and efficient sharing? There are plenty of RSS readers out there and apps such as Pocket, but nothing that’s based in the browser and streams all of your sources into the feed – not to mention lack the social integration.

Flud’s latest project – in conjunction with BASIC – has managed to accomplish just that. Flud Web App. With a three-month timeframe set in mind, the teams worked together to build a web app from the ground up; throwing away their old platform, coming up with ideas for a new one, scratching the ideas that didn’t work, and learning from their mistakes. After what I’m sure are hundreds and hundreds of work hours, Flud Web App is now in beta and ready to be tested by the masses.

As do the mobile applications, the Flud Web App aggregates a collection of sources based around your interests and hobbies, as well as letting you choose your own. If you haven’t used Flud before, think of it as a StumbleUpon for news, but also allows you to add specific content that may or may not be one of the sources they’ve suggested. You can actually own your own blog, which would help give it a nice platform, granted you “Flud” your articles so they’re shared. Once you’re content with your sources, you can begin to enjoy the stream of articles.

Social

The social aspect of news discovery is what Flud is built around and they’ve managed to implement this perfectly into the web app. As with the mobile apps, you can “Flud” articles within their ecosystem, sharing them with your followers, or you can push content out to Twitter or Facebook.

As per one of their recent endeavors, they’ve implemented the “Team” feature into the web app, allowing you and your co-workers/employees to build a stream specifically for bringing together news and articles for inspiration or information, within your work environment. Over 1000 companies have already signed up and there are bound to be many more to follow. It’s a much more streamlined way to share content with your team rather than copying and pasting a link into a Twitter mention, or worse yet, an email.

By having this web app out there now, what Flud has done is create a social network built specifically for news discovery and sharing. It’s something that hasn’t yet been done and it’s exciting to see this unfold in front of us. Instead of starting on the web and going mobile, they’ve taken the complete opposite approach, designing for mobile first, then bringing it to the web.

The only feature that’s missing to make it a full-fledged social network is commenting on shared links, which was their second most requested feature, right behind a web app. With the web app almost finished, I have a feeling we can safely assume comments are on the way.

Yet another item that adds value to its social experience is something Flud simply titles “IQ.” IQ uses what I would assume is a proprietary algorithm to determine how influential you are within Flud. It’s essentially a Klout score for Flud and while it may just seem cheesy to some people, it works on a psychological method in the fact that people want to see themselves improve overtime as a whole, but also want to know that they are gaining the attention of others.

I have a feeling Ghoshal and his team didn’t have a social network in mind when first drawing up Flud, but that seems to be the pivot they’ve made, be it consciously or not. With journalism (or content creation, to generalize) getting turned on its head thanks to the hyper-connectivity of our society, sharing has become more important than ever. What better way to filter out what you find interesting than to build a social platform that allows you to build an ongoing stream of content that pertains to what you are passionate about.

UI

The overall UI is rather consistent with that of most social networks, but obviously tailored to present news articles you share instead of your own content (unless it’s your work you’re sharing). It’s very light both in terms of whitespace and color, which allows for the focus to be on the text and content.

As a side-note, something I am a bit partial to is that it follows one of the “trends” in the fact the only color besides media is an orange-red; not blue.

Navigation

The navigation is potentially two-fold based in the fact that along the left-hand side you have your news feeds, influencers, as well as your own profile, and along the top, you have your specific streams if you’re part of a team as mentioned above.

The center column (there are three) is where your news feed is. The headline for each article is bolded and sticks out nicely allowing for easy reading. Below the headline, you have an excerpt of the article to give you an idea of where it’s heading. Next to the headline and excerpt, you’re presented with a large image, which I assume is automatically drawn from the media within the article.

Once you’ve decided you want to read an article, click on the headline or image and it will take you to the permalink in a new window, allowing you to view it in its native environment. To share an article or save it to your “Reading List,” there are buttons just below the excerpt to do so.

In the right-hand column, you are presented with “Recent Activity” which I assume was inspired by Facebook’s mini news feed. This gives you a live-updating rundown of who is doing what within Flud, allowing you to keep up regardless of where you are within the web app.

Profile

Your profile is where other Flud users can go to in order to find out more information as to who you are, what content you tend to share, who your following, who’s following you, what your favorite sources are, and of course, view your stream of “Fluded” articles.

Your profile image is in the upper-left-hand corner and although not there yet, it seems the option for a cover image is right around the corner.

The only other aspect I can think to add to the profile page is the ability to add links to where you are on the internet. A simple icon for Twitter, Dribbble, etc. would work and would allow for people to follow you by means, although it makes plenty of sense as to why they’ve initially omitted this. They want to keep people in the web app for as long as they can to get them used to the environment.

Thoughts/Opinion

In playing with the beta, there is a whole lot to love, but also a couple of areas that could be worked on. However, I won’t elaborate where I think some changes would help, because first off, I’ve already sent the Flud team some feedback, and second off, it’s up to you to use the service and draw out your own opinions and conclusions.

The team at Flud has built an incredible application across all platforms and the web app just seems to tie everything together. They have managed to create a type of social network based around news discovery and sharing, which as I mentioned above is yet to be done to this capacity. With the right amount of publicity and initial traction, I think this could really hit it off.

The problem is it’s quite a bit different from the rest of the social networks in the sense that it’s not based around psuedo-narcissism. Most of the content you will be sharing won’t be yours; it will just be material that influences you in some regard. It’s something that newcomers might not catch onto right off the bat, but it’s basic psychology that as humans, we don’t like change.

One detail I noticed that was brilliant in their design is that when you’re going through your news feed and want to share via Twitter or Facebook, you first have to “Flud” it. It is an ingenious way for users to build a stream of content within Flud, even if their means is to share via other outlets. Once the user shares it on Flud, their followers will see that article, and if they act upon it, it will give both users the social activity within Flud. Once users see that other people enjoy what they’re sharing, they will naturally want to share more and become an influence. It’s such a little detail that is bound to have a major impact on drawing users in.

Another detail that plays into it is that even when the article opens in a new page, it keeps a bar along the top allowing you to “Flud” it. This allows the users to read the news in its native format while still keeping Flud very much a part of the experience. At first I was wondering why they didn’t implement a means of reading the article such as Safari Reader, where its pure text and media in a distraction-free manner, but it makes plenty of sense to do it as they have; it keeps it in the format sources mean for it to be and when there’s more interactive capabilities within the article, displaying it in the Safari Reader method would limit the capabilities.

Conclusion

Overall, the Flud team has put out an incredible application that should, in theory, tie together their ecosystem. It’s beautifully done and with a few minuscule exceptions, the experience is incredible.

No more having twenty different tabs open, going from blog to blog trying to stay with up to the minute news. All of your reads are in one, unified stream, with sharing right alongside of it.

I have called it a social network throughout this article and although I don’t think Ghoshal or his team have actually referred to Flud as a social network yet, that’s exactly where I see it going, but not in the conventional sense. It will be exciting to see what comes of this, as I have the highest hopes for Flud. I’ve seen it blossom into what it is now and the future has looked somewhat grim at times, but as of recently it’s looking brighter than ever before. Congrats to Ghoshal and his team for constantly pushing themselves and their products. Pivoting is inevitable in any startup and although it’s almost never outwardly seen, it happens on a daily basis with each decision that’s being made.

If you’re a Flud user (if not, hope on it, ASAP), go hit up the beta and start using this thing of beauty. At first you probably won’t catch on or even like it. As with a fine glass of any beverage (I’m 20, so I’ll keep it to a nice glass of cold, ice-less Vernors), let it sit. As Ghoshal suggested to me, keep it open in your browser throughout the day. I can assure you that you will find yourself going back to Flud instead of your normal blog flow.

Once you have had some time to play around with it, give the Flud team some feedback. You’re your number one user as a creator of applications, but sometimes a non-biased opinion from third-party users can make or break the experience.

Good Design is Environmentally-Friendly

Fashion and Tech

Designer as Architect

Good Design is Thorough Down to the Last Detail

What I Would Wear on My Wrist

Metis NYC Product Design Bootcamp: Acquire Skills, Build a Career

Good Design is Long-Lasting (Part 7)