The Ten Golden Principles For Successful Web Apps

I am going to be in Miami this week for the Future Of Web Apps conference. This is my kind of conference; lots of developers and entrepreneurs and not much else. And Miami in February sure adds to its appeal.

The conference organizers assigned me this topic for my 9am talk on Tuesday morning:

The Ten Golden Principles For Successful Web Apps

Here’s the slide deck I sent them yesterday afternoon. There still is time for changes so comment away.

Note: I’ve been updating the presentation based on feedback in the comments. Thanks to everyone who is helping me to improve it.


Comments (Archived):

  1. ntoll

    Useful…? (Perhaps covered by instant utility tho…)

    1. fredwilson

      instantly useful i think

      1. Elie Seidman

        It’s amazing the number of sites that when you get to their home page (or any page on their site for that matter) you can’t figure out – in 2 seconds – what the site does better than anyone else. Since for any growing company, the majority of your visitors are, hopefully, going to be new for a long long time, it’s critical to message to those people what the site is about. If I can’t figure out a site in less than 5 seconds, I’m gone.

        1. Mark Essel

          Thanks Elie, I believe you’re in good company. 90% of web browsers need to understand what a page is instantly or they bounce.I’m in the other 10% so its tough creating that message for Victus Media. But good founders find a way :), hope I’m one of them

  2. robertdo

    Hey Fred,I think this is great. One quick thing I would fix is using “principle” rather than “principal”.

    1. fredwilson

      yup. thanks for that correction. i’ve fixed it.

  3. Frank Denbow

    Intuitive. I would put that instead of clean.

    1. fredwilson

      i agree that intuitive is important. i need to think about how to get that in there

      1. Zaid

        On the other hand, “intuitive” is often found in your everyday bs pitch and has lost meaning as a result. I like clean–it has me intrigued not knowing what angle you’re coming from!

  4. Sachin Agarwal

    Principles, not Principals. 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      got it, thanks

  5. fnazeeri

    I have to say that this is one of those presentations where the most interesting thing about it is the person giving it. Not much there there.

    1. fredwilson

      can i fix that or is that a function of the topic?

      1. fnazeeri

        When I read the title, I was hoping for something from an owner/investor point of view about how you measure “success.” Can / should you build a business around web apps? What kinds of business succeed or fail? I get all the UX design stuff, but it left me wondering “why?” It could be in the presentation of the presentation…

      2. Dave Hendricks

        maybe this is covered somewhere else in comments, but maybe you could (like the Google thing) include a video or voiceover of the presentation so we can see how you addressed the slides.I like the design and wouldn’t change it…I had to follow Seth Godin on stage once, and his entire deck was like yours – all images – and his narration made it come alive. Much better design than bullet points.If you could share it with us, all of those who are too busy building apps to go to the conference can benefit from it!

        1. fredwilson

          i hope they video it and put it upif they do, i’ll post it here

        2. Mark Essel

          In my business the charts are terrible. They’re overloaded with images, details, functional nuances, and charts.I think one killer briefing from a simplistic standpoint could change the way we share slides. Hopefully it’ll be my next one (my last one was conformist in December)

  6. awaldstein

    ViralIf the app can be its own channel, all the better.

    1. ShanaC

      If you can charge a lot for your own tiny niche, actually that may not be necessary. There is a Bar prep App on the Iphone. It’s over a $1000. I don’t expect it to go viral. But they make a lot for that app by focusing in a niche and serving it. It’s viral within a niche.

      1. awaldstein

        Hi ShanaViral doesn’t speak to the size of the audience. It speaks to how the word spreads…big market/small niche, the idea is not to have your enthusiasts be the channel.

        1. ShanaC

          I still think that if you made a BarBri application for say Illinois, and then you plastered the major law schools in chicago with flyers about your application regularly before the exam, I don’t think you have viral marketing. That’s just something more guerilla…And I don’t think it should be enthusiasts be the channel either. Though it is a good question how to get beyond the enthusiasts.Considering the amount you can charge for that App.

          1. awaldstein

            I don’t know anything about this app.Without enthusiasts, regardless of the product or channel, you are in trouble. If you have to make a discreet act to sell each unit or product, you have a brand issue IMHO.

    2. fredwilson

      that’s part of discoverable in my framework

      1. awaldstein

        Discoverable is a better term.Discovery when viral is innate marketing.

  7. ShanaC

    A) I don’t like the first slide, though I like the saying in it “he who has the gold makes the rules”There are too many alternative meanings if you don’t read that line, it looks like a guys who died of smoking and evilness in a weird detournement kind of way…A picture of real gold? I mean I always loved that image of Scrooge McDuck diving into his vault growing up, and I think it goes well with the statement (which is why I think you chose the image)If you had time to double the deck I would say Image with rule- example image. So you give “Clean” That should be bar of soap. Then I would want to see the webpage and have a discussion about it. Personal should be an individual picture and then we see your painting/icon, So we have the contrast as a way of learning through image..Everyone learns through media and mediation after all…

    1. fredwilson

      cool. i am going to fix all of these things. that’s the whole point of posting in advance

    2. fredwilson

      shana, i updated the presentation and re-embedded it. let me know what you think

      1. ShanaC

        Better particularly for the clean slide

  8. kidmercury

    i think for this presentation you gotta go ballmer on us boss. by that i mean this type of intro. gotta get the crowd hyped for web apps! and developers!

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t think i can channel ballmer

    2. AgeOfSophizm

      that was amazing and just made my afternoon. thanks kid!

    3. Mark Essel

      hahahahah, please Fred don’t do that.

    4. Dave Pinsen

      Kid, you’re in Miami, right? Are you going to this conference? This could be the chance for you and Fred to meet.

  9. richardamuscat

    I think it’s “principles” not “principals” 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      thanks. i fixed it.

  10. shafqat

    Great stuff. Whats the difference between programmable and RESTful? Surely by the latter you’re implying that startups should build platforms with APIs etc. If that is the case, I’m not sure what you mean by programmable.

    1. fredwilson

      RESTful is a “reach”what i am trying to get at is the architecture of the web app with every page being a resource with a unique URLi’m not sure that title works, but that is what i’m getting at

      1. dfano28

        how about access or open?

        1. fredwilson

          that’s what programmable is supposed to mean

          1. dfano28

            got it, makes sense.

          2. firebones

            I think instead of RESTful (which speaks to me as a developer, but perhaps not to others), you really want what Sam Ruby calls “intertwingly”. Factor programmable out of RESTful and what you’re left with is that the service under consideration is capable of being intertwined with other pieces of the web fabric.

      2. shafqat

        Cool – so I take it the programmable slide refers to platforms/APIs?The concept of “RESTful” web apps (as opposed to RESTful APIs) is interesting. Apart from elegance, would love to hear why every page being a unique resource/URL makes it into the top 10 golden principles.For content based startups, this can help with SEO and interesting presentation of data (think Google’s ‘LivingStories’). But outside that niche of startups, I’m not sure why it’s so important (at least top 10 worthy). Intrigued.

        1. fredwilson

          it makes the app shareable on blogs, email, social media if every resource/page has its own URL

          1. shafqat

            Got it… also makes it extremely attractive for SEO, which is a great (free) source of user acquisition.

          2. fredwilson

            i like how twitter is architected in that wayhere’s an example…

          3. e_irene

            I think you may have answered your own question. =) Why not call it “shareable”?

          4. e_irene

            Just did some thesaurus surfing. If you’re into poetry, maybe “sowable”. =) To borrow from math-speak: “piecewise diffusable”. Also “radiative” and “propogation friendly”…

      3. jv

        RESTful is improperly used here, as it suggest software architecture and features outside the scope of your intent.This would be better stated as “Eminently Shareable”

        1. fredwilson

          i want to get at more than that.i want to talk about URLs that are obvious and “clean”i want to talk about everything in the service having an identifiable resource

          1. William Pietri

            As a developer, I think the term RESTful does nicely for that. Not specifically because of anything Fielding said when defining the term. But anybody taking REST seriously when designing URLs treats them as an expression of the underlying design, shifting them from accidental API to intentional UI.

          2. fredwilson

            That’s the essence of what I’d like to convey. Thanks for saying it in a way I can explain

          3. William Pietri

            My pleasure. It’s something I’ve advocated for years, so if you could turn this into an industry standard, you’ll save me a number of future dustups.

          4. Mark Essel

            My cofounder thinks like that William, thanks for reminding me why I’m so lucky I bumped into him after only a few months of looking.

      4. Cody Swann

        Maybe consumable? I think what you’re trying to say is that, by making each page a resource, they are machine and human consumable.

        1. fredwilson

          Yes. That’s a big part of the point I am making

  11. dfano28

    I’m still a little confused between RESTful and Programmable. in the comments when you say every page do you mean every block of information. tweet v. feed?I’m signed up so I’ll be lucky to see your answer in person 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  12. Peter Cranstone

    All this “has to take place in the browser”. All of this “has to be Mobile enabled”. So how does the Web app become “Personal” (Slide 7) if it doesn’t really know Who, What and Where I am. How do you make the web know me? Slide 6 – Programmable. How do you do this without learning anything new?I would add one slide to your deck – “Mobile”. It’s missing at the moment and it’s the future.

    1. dfano28

      Could mobile fall under the “RESTful” (edit: Programmable) slide. If you have an open api then you or anyone else can build multiple interfaces into the app. I don’t think twitter has a proper iPhone app but since the API is so accessible they have a BBerry app, iPhone app, Android App and desktop clients and and SMS interface (you could argue THAT was mobile from day one i guess 😉 ).

      1. Peter Cranstone

        REST can’t access the device side capabilities from outside the browser. Also “The client-server communication is further constrained by no client context being stored on the server between requests”… HTTP is a stateless protocol (carries no information about the state of the device).And therein lies the real problem – how do I add “contextual state” to the protocol to allow the web server to personalize the response. See why this is important in my response to Fred below.

    2. fredwilson

      i went back and forth on that. won’t every web app be mobile?

      1. Peter Cranstone

        Nope? How will the server know what’s at the other end. Is your blog “Mobile”. Nope. Too much data to transmit and it’s not designed for Mobile. If you were to ask your programmers what it would take to make it Mobile they would first have to know the capabilities of EVERY connecting device in real time. Anything less and they will serve up a lousy page. So they will punt and build you a minimal web blog optimized for Mobile which might look good on a few devices but not on every.Every Web App should be Mobile – but unless you figure out a way to identify the incoming device correctly A) the experience will be awful and B) your programmers will go crazy trying to support it all.Everyone knows that Mobile is the future of Web app (A VC just wrote a great article on why Apps are crap) but the problem is “how do I extend my current web app to mobile?” It means that you have to support EVERY Mobile browser out there, on EVERY device, on EVERY carrier, with all DIFFERENT form factors. Oh yes… don’t forget all the legacy devices.That is a really hard problem to solve because nowhere in the current HTTP protocol or RESTful API is a solution to that problem. Without that context Web apps don’t SCALE DOWN to Mobile devices.My two cents is that you need to add in the slide “Mobile” Why? Because nothing out there right now solves the problem I outlined above. Which means that the current Web app design doesn’t extend easily, simply or cheaply to Mobile.Big opportunity for someone to solve that problem. BTW your slide about “Speed” is spot on. For mobile it’s even more important – the correct answer for a Mobile Web app is “to only send the necessary data and do it really quickly” For that you have to have data compression. The good news is that there’s an app for that – “mod_gzip”. It’s free and will be required to fulfill your slide deck.

      2. Chris Phenner

        Gigya released ‘Gigya 4’ last week, and calls it a ‘Super API’ that accepts jQuery, REST and AS3-created calls, offering an abstraction layer that manages version control amongst FB, Twitter, LinkedIn and other (eg, OpenID) APIs. I think a language-specific attribute is too narrow.

  13. amin

    Hi Mr. Wilson, I like how high level the presentation is, would love if the same was given some where here in NYC as am curious to hear your insights that would go for each slide.As a designer, I can’t resist to share some design pointers… The distance between the title and the image varies a bit from slide to slide.The flickr credit url also jump in location from slide to slide and the space between the image and the credit url is also inconsistent. (same on the horizontal centering)of course these are details but they will make it that much better… :)Respectfully amin

    1. fredwilson

      it certainly could use a designer but i am not one

      1. amin

        Are you doing these on keynote or powerpoint?if keynote, I would not mind at all to polish up the slides for you if you email it to me, in fact, I be honored! … but if its done on powerpoint, I can’t as I don’t have that application on my home computer. 🙁

        1. fredwilson

          ppt unfortunately

          1. Mark Essel

            have you tried google docs for slides, it’s not bad.Between PPT, Open Office, Google Docs, and Sliderocket I think gdocs is my favorite simply because I can share it natively

          2. Jan Schultink

            PPT is fine for your style of presentations.If you had to learn one technique, I would pick stretching an image to a full page. No need for a designer, and your slides (huge image + 1 or 2 words only) will look as professional as it can get.(Plug to my blog with a post how to do this: http://stickyslides.blogspo… )

          3. andrej

            Agree, full page images would improve the slides a lot. Do it all the time on my slides.

          4. Mark Essel

            Thanks Jan

  14. scottythebody

    I don’t know about the RESTful thing. All of the slides have to do with higher level concepts, and REST is a specific style of software architecture. I am not in the web app business enough to know if all of the really successful web apps in the world are using REST, but if so, then I would say leave it in. Otherwise, they could be using *anything* and, so long as they adhere to the higher level concepts, they could still have a successful web app.Oh, I just read down and am seeing what you’re trying to get at… Need to think on that. Hard to convey simply for sure.

    1. fredwilson

      if you come up with any good ideas, pls share them

      1. scottythebody

        Will do. The slides are good, though. I like your style.

      2. Mark Essel

        RESTful and utility could be combined (software as a service, being part of the layered internet stack, etc is utility)

  15. Vladimir Vukicevic

    It seems like there should be something about “trust” or “trusted” or even “trustworthy.” Credibility is key for the (many) apps that deal with sensitive matters – e.g. personal finance, health, etc.

    1. fredwilson

      great point. i may have to do a dozen

      1. Wavelengths

        I think the emotional content of “credibility” fits in with “voice.” A “voice” can be snarky, or pedantic, or gently humorous.If the “voice” is continually supportive, uplifting, helpful, and tolerant of users who may be less technologically sophisticated than the developers, then the “voice” conveys credibility and inspires trust.

        1. fredwilson


        2. Vladimir Vukicevic

          I think that trust goes beyond voice. It is an overall feeling that is conveyed in many different and important ways – e.g. design, content, context, placement, reputation, etc.

    2. Mark Essel

      My favorite attribute, forgotten (from my top 4 list too).Thanks Vlad.

  16. Mark Zohar

    Not sure what you mean by “Voice”. Do you mean voice-enabled? Or that the app has its own voice (ie., style) or that the app should engender word of mouth?Also, it would be interesting to get your perspective on prioritizing these ten golden principles. Which are more important than others in terms of driving overall growth and value of a web app? If you had to only choose three of these principles which would you choose?

    1. Spencer Fry

      It’s not clear to me either.I’m thinking maybe “give the users’ voice?” (i.e. “a platform for the users to be social?”)Please elaborate, Fred.

      1. fredwilson

        see my reply right above spencer

    2. fredwilson

      “voice” means style in the way i want to use iti believe that software has become media.successful media has a voice and successful software should too

      1. Spencer Fry

        I think I understand what you’re saying, but still a bit unclear. Maybe it’s that my green tea hasn’t kicked in yet this morning…Are you saying, for example, Twitter empowers people to have a voice and be heard like newscasters on CNBC?The other 9 are clear… this one just seems like Voice may not be the right word.Maybe it’ll be cleared up when they post a video of your talk… will they be doing that?

        1. fredwilson

          No. The software itself needs to have an ‘attitude’

          1. Spencer Fry

            Ah, ok. I get it… attitude, personality, etc.Definitely agree with you there.

      2. Elie Seidman

        Check out the page that you get to when you unsubscribe from Groupon (which I did yesterday because the site is spam) as an example. Very well done example of having voice.

  17. Eric Leebow

    Less is more, yet more can be better in some instances. It all depends if more is a valuable part of the application, and it makes the application beneficial to its users. I think over the years we have always thought of being a go to market society, and less of an innovation to market society. In some instances this has caused greater challenges in the long term to fix, just because something went to market so quickly. If something more can have a long term impact or benefit to your application users, then why not make something with more? Take Boxee for example, that is where more had to be created to build value. If they just made another site just like YouTube, then it would not be as valuable. There’s always more than one school of thought. I agree with less is more, then iterate, yet if less is too little, and the application does not work as expected, then it should not go to market.

  18. spxdcz

    For me, one of the big missing things from this list is ‘sustainable’. Perhaps it’s implied, but the most useful, fun, programmable app in the world shouldn’t be classed ‘successful’ if it can’t make money or support itself.

    1. fredwilson

      very true

    2. Guest

      Agree with spxdcz. But sustainable and monetizable are not exactly the same.

      1. spxdcz

        Yes, good point.I just wanted to make it clear that popularity != success. With our increasing obsession about whatever the metric of the day is (page views, fans, followers, re-blogs, etc), we often lose sight of the business-end of apps.Especially as developers (as this presentation is geared towards), it’s all too-easy to focus on the things that technical people inertly love, like solving a problem, and assume that if the problem is solved well and people like the app, then the app will naturally ‘have a life’.This is not necessarily true; if the rumours are right, then massively popular sites like Stack Overflow or even Mashable may generate the eyeballs and have the reach/presence/respect, but do they generate the cash they need to survive? It could be argued that a niche site, maybe something for people to walk their dogs in New York, used by 100 people – but generating enough cash to get-by – is more ‘successful’ than a top 100 website with an API but that loses money every day.I’m actually focusing a pitch I’m hopefully going to make soon (I hope to Fred!) about this very topic. Look at the people behind 95% of the big apps on the web, whether it’s Facebook, Google, Flickr, Twitter, or whatever. You’ll notice a pattern. They’re all white, middle class, well educated, and technical. These are the people that are deciding what the ‘best problems to solve’ are (and yes, I’m one of them too).Who’s to say that male, educated geeks know what the right problems are? Just because we know how to create apps, doesn’t mean we are the right people to decide what gets created. Why shouldn’t a nurse, or a newsagent, or a charity worker have a great idea for a successful app?Anyway, am getting a bit off track now! Apologies.

        1. Mark Essel

          Stack Overflow is profitable, but they are also re-using/leveraging that architecture in a very scalable way (stack exchange).”Why shouldn’t a nurse, or a newsagent, or a charity worker have a great idea for a successful app?”This is the future of programming, when anyone can craft utilities to best solve their problems. I can’t wait until we get there.

        2. Dave Pinsen

          “I’m actually focusing a pitch I’m hopefully going to make soon (I hope to Fred!) about this very topic.”In your second paragraph above, you made a good point about the need for apps to make money to be considered successful from a business perpsective. If you come up with an app that makes a profit, you won’t need to pitch VCs for cash (though someone with Fred’s social media footprint could certainly give you some helpful exposure).”Look at the people behind 95% of the big apps on the web, whether it’s Facebook, Google, Flickr, Twitter, or whatever. You’ll notice a pattern. They’re all white, middle class, well educated, and technical. These are the people that are deciding what the ‘best problems to solve’ are (and yes, I’m one of them too).”I’m not sure exactly what problem Twitter solves, but if you look at its trending topics, you’ll see it has been widely adopted by a lot of non-white users. For example, see #grandmawhy and #itsfunnyhow.

          1. spxdcz

            Absolutely.I’m not saying that the tools appeal to a particular user base (male educated techs), but that by having such a narrow segment of the population being ‘in charge’ of what gets created (we are the gatekeepers of the web, in some way), we tend to only be solving the problems that we can imagine and encounter in our small worlds. How many more apps do we need to put our egos online (twitter, tumblr, wordpress, flickr, facebook, etc), measure how successful they are (analytics), and let other people find them (google, etc)? There have to be better problems to solve.Re: pitching VCs for cash, I wasn’t very clear sorry: was referring to seed funding (i.e. raising funding to support the development of the app in the first instance).

          2. Dave Pinsen

            “How many more apps do we need to put our egos online”There are definitely better problems to solve. I think I’ve identified, and solved, one with the app on my new site (soon we’ll see what the market thinks of my solution).Re seed funding, do you have an idea of how much it would cost to get a beta version of what you have in mind launched? Maybe you can bootstrap it, or tap family and friends for it?

          3. spxdcz

            Look forward to reading/seeing the app!I think I have fair idea of what mine will take, but don’t think bootstrapping is an option (for this particular idea; others I’ve worked on have been bootstrapped). It’s not a simple one-task app (it’s not twitter, or twitpic, or something that could be prototyped in a day or two): it’s more complicated/sophisticated, and will require a few man-months of full-time attention (not just development, but UX and design too). Though we’ll see, maybe I can work out some way of phasing it…Good luck with yours!

          4. Dave Pinsen

            If you want to try it, contact me here and I’ll set you up with temporary demo access to it. I’d be interested in hearing your feedback on it.If there’s a way of phasing your idea so that you can launch a functional, potentially profitable slice of it first, and then add new capabilities later, that might give you a shot at growing organically. Best of luck with it though.

          5. Aviah Laor

            twitter solves some hidden social need

        3. Tereza

          Yes I think you are on to something.I have a number of problems that male, educated geeks don’t recognize as problems, because we live very different lives. And if I explain it, they may or may not view my problem as a “real” problem, because it doesn’t relate to them.It can be a real disconnect. Think “iPad”. Blech.Thing is, these are problems that I, and people like me, are willing to pay to make go away. Opportunities to be defined and money to be made.

  19. Paras Chopra

    Where is “usability”? I think it is what differentiates great apps from mediocre ones.

    1. fredwilson

      I think all of these rules add up to usability

  20. Joe Siewert

    I just like how “Ten Golden Principles” = 10 slides. Nice and concise, well done.

  21. mcbeese

    I think ‘social’ is a critical requirement to work in more visibly. Perhaps a more prominent aspect of playful.

    1. fredwilson

      And discoverable

  22. Mark Collier

    I hope it includes “don’t use proprietary technologies that won’t render on the most valuable mobile platform” because I can’t read these slides on my iPhone, where I do most of my blog reading.

    1. fredwilson


    2. Mark Essel

      Mark, my cofounder and I are pushing full jquery/javascript for our animations for similar reasons. Flash is weak or non-existent on mobile.

      1. Mark Collier

        In fairness, I should point out that I’m working on a music site now that uses flash, but I don’t know of an alternative. While the iPhone has some html5 support, it doesn’t seem to support inline playback of <audio> today. Having to go full screen QuickTime to hear one song makes about as much sense as having to leave a web page to view images. I’m hopeful a future rev of safari on iPhone/ipad will support sensible rendering of audio in context.

        1. Mark Essel

          Our main visual interface is flash at this moment, it was good enough to get started and begin understanding what we wanted and to show others. (IMM)

  23. Derek Flanzraich

    Love it. But is there any value in mentioning a web app should be DIFFERENT/UNIQUE? An app could be all 10 of these things– and still be no better than Evernote.Or maybe the word is just BETTER, as in better than everything else out there? No matter how large the online world seems to be, success is never achieved in a vacuum. It’s always about what else is (or isn’t) out there.

    1. spxdcz

      This comes back to the old cliche of ‘idea vs execution’, where most people would agree that the idea (i.e. different/unique) doesn’t actually matter that much, it’s more about the execution (as you say – ‘better’). I’d argue that there’s a third component too that dictates success (‘context’ – how does your app fit into the current technological and social environment?).This is really what the presentation is already about (as far as I’m reading it) – how do you execute your idea brilliantly?

    2. fredwilson

      Good point

    3. Mark Essel

      Instead of focusing on different/unique, I think “genuine” captures the essence of what winning web tools will be. Persona is related.

      1. Wavelengths

        And persona relates to “voice.”So you want to have an inviting, engaging “voice,” whether it’s comfy or a little edgy to match a different demographic, etc.But that voice should be consistent and credible, and that probably goes back to the guiding intelligence behind the whole venture. And that’s more than a persona, really.

  24. Wavelengths

    My very first thought, after seeing all ten slides, was “Inviting.”How can I appreciate speed, utility, and so forth, if I don’t feel invited into the experience? Isn’t that the essence of the start of any interaction? Eyes across a room? A smile that invites more conversation?Just a thought.

    1. fredwilson

      I think clean and voice are a big part of inviting

  25. shuri

    I would add self-correcting to the list, meaning via a feedback button and site analytics detect and correct problems in the flow.I also like to generalize things. A lot of things fall under what I call “path of least resistance” or flow: discoverable, speed and instant utility.And under self-correcting you can put: feedback, site analytics, and programmable.The last part (arguably) is getting them to stay and comeback.

    1. fredwilson

      Is it really self correcting or just a devleoper who solicits feedback and reacts to it?

      1. shuri

        I may have been trying to cover too much with one term.On the one hand, self-correcting maybe over stating it for feedback and analytics. However, it’s not limited to soliciting feedback since using site-analytics and A/B testing you can detect problems that the users themselves aren’t aware of.On the other hand, what being programmable achieves is that a site gets functionality beyond what even the site-owner knows is needed or has time and resources to implement. That possibly goes beyond self-correcting.

  26. William Pietri

    Thanks for involving us in this, Fred. It’s fun.Personally, I would merge “less is more” with “clean” and add one like “always evolving” or “responsive to the audience”. The most successful web apps I see treat the audience as an important creative partner. Like you’re doing with this post, really.

    1. fredwilson

      Yup. Good point

    2. Mark Essel

      I forgot adaptive in my 4 drivers, but programmable and adaptive are related.

  27. xiaokuge

    Your “playful” slide is showing an all wet, not very much playful, scene. Obviously there was heavy rainfall, and there is a pond under the swing set, no children will come to play. ;o)

    1. fredwilson

      Yes. But that slide is where twitter was conceived. Its the only picture I have of it

  28. COP

    Very Coool Preso!Appendix Items:1. AJAX2. Rounded boxes3. Pastel colors4. Rails or Django on EC25. FB Connect

  29. Denny Ferrassoli

    Maybe it’s what you meant by programmable… but what about Open?Also RESTful didn’t seem like a good fit at first glance. After reading some of the comments it’s not bad but I still feel something funny about it. Disclosure: I am very technical.Some other ideas that came to mind: simple navigation, RESTful navigationOh and it just hit me… what about Scalability?Great topics otherwise, wish I could attend the talk. Good luck!

  30. Mark Essel

    You mentioned speed, clean, programmable, and restful (API). Those would be my 4 slides.If every idea I have takes a net living form that embodies those 4 designs I’d die a happy man.Reading through the comments here, I wish there was a way to hire out the AVC community to help redesign/rethink the user interface of the IMM. I think I got enough to think through some significant changes (and we’ll never make everyone happy, nor do we wish to).

    1. Laurent Boncenne

      I’m in :)still have to try IMM a bit more tho.

      1. Mark Essel

        Thanks Laurentour immediate prioritiesreplace the flash cloud with something easier to interface with, works on mobile (javascript). I found plenty of great 3D jquery examples to explorelists: narrow down searches to within a list (filter out the noise). opening up the search may be an option (my first thought was finding adjacent information/serendipity by leaving the search open, but bots and spam dominate popular terms)

        1. Laurent Boncenne

          I’d be happy to provide as many feedback and/or opinion as needed :-)any way to continue this conversation in private ? my email is lboncenne at gmail dot com (buzz not activated)

  31. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Compelling.Is good.

  32. vruz

    too late for more feedback?1) speed* speed is really a non-issue unless your app is a FPS game. for traditional web apps what actually matters is responsiveness.2) instant utility* this may be a bit counterintuitive with respect to discoverability. some things take a while to make sense, some things are more discoverable than others. take for example twitter: it was perfectly useless when it first started.3) voice* the voice of the group?4) less is more* not so. more is more. more features will always cover a larger user base. you have to organise and hide complexity -not kill it- making it discoverable and programmable. killing complexity makes for dumb products without power users.5) programmable* agreed. the more the better, leaving complexity for the power user and third parties.6) personal* the voice of the individual ?7) RESTful* it kinda overlaps with programmable, or rather.. scriptable by third parties.8) discoverable* create layers of complexity with a learning curve that is not too steep9) clean* I guess we’re talking about user interface here. again, hide complexity and make it progressively discoverable.10) playful* has to do with the process of discovery and design hiding complexity. same thing.

  33. frank

    I like the presentation. Recently we’ve been discussing whether html5 (or codes like it) will somehow one day replace ‘apps’ with better designed webpages. The presentation doesn’t address the evolution of the web app into something else. For sake of argument, let’s assume that a better designed app vs. a better designed web page all leads to the same spot. It’s some kind of utility, and you’re looking for ten principles that speak to creating a successful utility (whether in app form, webpage form, or some other form).Leaving aside whether you want to address some kind of future proofing to your web app design, besides OpenAPI/programmable like attractiveness, a successful web app would have imho (i) some means to exist on both mobile/handheld and web/computer platforms (ipad could prove successful here), (ii) ability to generate ‘consideration’ – either getting people to give their time/attention (such as foursquare, although that is getting old too) or their money, (iii) instant niche filling, and (iv) community/social ‘aspects’ — to tweet/email/share/comment/review/improve (yelp, amazon, etc.), to save (evernote), or (iii) the ability on purpose not to do any of this (such as a weatherbug app or IMDB, etc.).

  34. Tereza


    1. fredwilson


      1. Tereza

        Yep even better. It felt missing from the list.

  35. sigmaalgebra

    The movie ‘The Big Sky’ starts with:”The early history of America is a tale of great first times. There were men who were first to cross new prairies and new mountains, the first to find gold, silver and copper; to plow new wheat fields and build new settlements.”The setting was 1832, and each 20-30 years since can see examples of “great first times” that were very new and important but not simple extrapolations of the past. The big successes were more substantial than just following fads.Good examples “of great first times” we’ve seen include the microprocessor, the PC, the commercial Internet.Google was not really the first in Internet search, but the size of the success of Google was a surprise, a ‘first’!As I look at Google, I see them doing well on each of”Speed””Instant Utility””Less is More”but not the other seven.I would look for paths to success that are more solid than some transplant to the Internet of the hula hoop business or some Web 2.0 restful, playful, light entertainment, social network experience recent fad extrapolation.(1) First: To be part of the history of the actual ‘next big things’, do something really important for the first time.(2) Importance: Provide content the user REALLY likes, hopefully for something really important in their lives. Yes, users will usually like the site more if it is fast, gives useful results even to new users, is as simple as possible to use but not simpler, gives content specific to them, is RESTful, helps users discover things they like, is ‘clean’, is fun to use, and they trust and respect the site and its content.(3) Make money: For Web apps, the usual revenue source is ads, and now the most important needed progress in ads is especially effective ad targeting. Be careful: Much about Internet ads is subject to change.(4) Privacy: The recent fad of users giving up their privacy will go away soon. In the future, a successful Web app will need to do well on user privacy.(5) Content: Can be from important up to crucial not to have to pay for the content. Having the content be close to or over the line of copyright violations is risky. One of the best sources of low cost content is the users, and there to increase the quality of the content on the site have effective means to motivate the users to provide high quality content. Generally increased usage should increase the quality of the content and, thus, build an ‘asset’ and a ‘barrier to entry’.(6) Marketing: It can help to be ‘viral’.(7) Users: For the effectiveness of the ads, the reputation of the site, the effectiveness of the viral marketing, and the quality of the content, will help to have especially good user characteristics.(8) Network Effects: Twitter has done well here.(9) Secret Sauce Barrier to Entry: Can help if the technical internals of the Web site, in how it manipulates the available data to get the results the users like, are not easy to understand or duplicate.

    1. fredwilson

      those are some great onesthanks

    2. Mark Essel

      I agree with Fred sigma, nice review.”To be part of the history of the actual ‘next big things’, do something really important for the first time.”: That concept catches on to how I envision the web interface just a few years out. AR, location, and status will be merging onto a mobile platform (phone, headset, transparent display goggles). But all of that is just an interface, the part that I think will blow peoples minds is how our personas will project outwards. Our social sharing and behavior will shape the way the web responds to our presence (both virtually and in 3D space).

  36. Aviah Laor

    Love it. Food metaphor is great. Something you take in, should be both healthy and tasty, though many times tasty will be enough… Interesting you started with speed. Speed of the app? speed of users getting it? speed of spread?I would add “Have some linkage to real life”. Gone are the days where you had “web life” and “actual life”. We are all avatars now 😀

  37. ori1906

    I would consider changing “speed” to “fast” and “instant Utility ” to ” Useful” (or even “Extremely / Super Useful”)simpler and makes more sense to me. but again English is not my first language.Ciao

  38. Peter Cranstone

    Fred,Thought of one more slide that I think is really important. (If you don’t include the Mobile slide you should include this one)…. And the slide is “Privacy”.People are not paying close enough attention to this issue. Google just found out the hard way that people really do care about privacy. If you abuse it, the barrier to switching to a competitor is now nothing more than a click.

  39. Ericson

    I’d say brand should definitely be up there. It has to be likable and remark-able, as in worthy of a remark.Also, I feel that often apps deal with how the offline can become interesting online but does not consider the flip side enough – how does the online become interesting in the offline? Naturally you want your users to be as involved and perhaps even obsessed with your app as much as possible. But that’s abuse and is not sustainable. It definitely doesn’t apply to all types of apps, but I think it’s going to be more and more important to consider how your product fits into people’s lives in the long term. So in a way I am saying, how does your app become more than just an app?

    1. Tereza

      Important concept. I was thinking it ties into the “voice” of the coding, which is mentioned elsewhere in this thread. In the model in my head, you have your logo/look/feel/etc. but that that ultimately the engineering of the site reflects that same voice or intent.

  40. terrencemurray

    I like the illustrations. Kind of like what you say what an apple application should be: simple and clear. I am developing a news site and are looking at rolling an Apple ap as part of it. Are those expensive to develop? Is this specialty work, only done by a few development shops or can anyone with a good programing backbone do it?

  41. Chris Phenner

    ‘Jujitsu-y’ (a propos of your prior ‘Jujitsu’ post).I know that direct monetization of one’s platform can sound crass, but I think revenue-generation (or an eye towards it) is worthy of its own slide/image. Mashery espouses well how to ‘bake your business model into your APIs,’ and I think that can be forgotten.’API First Design’ is another concept on which AVC has posted in the past, and may be captured in one of the other slides, but just a reminder in case that concept doesn’t have a home.

  42. Karthik Ramakrishnan

    This is great. Is your talk going to be posted on your blog? I would like to see more context around each of the slides.

    1. fredwilson

      It was ustreamed but apparently the stream was very choppyI hope they’ll post the video and if they do I’ll reblog it here

  43. amishshah

    Can you clarify the difference between ‘Less is More’ and ‘Clean’ (as you see them in your head)?I initially interpreted them both as being design-related (and thus redundant). But then I thought ‘Less is More’ might refer to features, or ‘Clean’ might refer to content (as in not ‘dirty’). So which is it?

    1. fredwilson

      Exactly ‘less features’ and clean design

  44. Naveed Anwar

    Heard your speech at FOWA, was wondering how come Monetization of one’s applications did not make it to your top 10? There is loads of information on

    1. fredwilson

      I think you have to get the product right and build the audience first. If you don’t do that, monetization is irrelevant

  45. kenberger

    I write this from a mobile phone on a boat cruising down the Nile River. Can attest to the appeal of escaping the US winter!

  46. john

    I always put ingredients in my pan. Love the presentation.

  47. kortina

    This preso nails it, Fred.

  48. awaldstein

    My logic goes something like this…Marketing is about connecting customers to products. For web apps especially on the social web, discovery (aka viral reach) builds the channel and becomes the market discovery process. In the best case, discovering your customers becomes the channel for selling as well.Working on a post on this now.

  49. awaldstein

    I agree…I’m clarifying it cause I think its important.

  50. Marcio von Muhlen

    Something where the function dominates the form, with as few extraneous details as possible. For example, silverware. There is a handle and there is a part that touches the food. No instruction manual required.

  51. fredwilson

    i know. it’s a bad habit. i’ve been working on it. getting better i think

  52. kidmercury

    damn boss your grammar game is catchin’ a beatdown todaymy condolences

  53. ShanaC

    Get this book:…I had homogenous writing problems in school. This book 100% helps. My writing problem are starting to clear up when I remember to sit and think about how to write (which I don’t do as often as I should…)(Note about the Its/it’s: you’ll stop doing that as much when you write clearly what the it is referring to. Also people will find your writing clearer if you junk it and its constructs)

  54. fredwilson

    Deservedly so

  55. Mark Essel

    That’s like an upside down exclamation point. Empathy from the Kid, I need a new symbol.] or closing brackets for your support

  56. Mark Essel

    Yeah and Florida would have been a nice change of pace this time of year for me.

  57. Mark Essel

    I reread some sentences in my head for 10 minutes and they still have translation errors. Your grammar is marvelous in comparison. Communication and expression takes work.

  58. Elie Seidman

    FWIW, I think you writes pretty good for an engineer

  59. Mark Essel

    Word of mouth trumps any marketing I can pay for. Looking forward to the post.