MySpace Mondays: How To Improve Your MySpace Application

I’m taking a break from reviewing them this week because I want to offer a few tips that hopefully someone will take note of. Most of the MySpace applications aren’t very good from an usability standpoint, and it’s usually the little things they are missing that separate a good application from a great application. Additionally, the MySpace platform is still a moving target, but the end user doesn’t have to see that.

Don’t be that Johnny Bedroom hack developer that we considered when building the MySpace developer site; think of solutions that would make your application better. This stuff isn’t rocket science — even blondes can offer great tips!

Here are a few tips that might improve the user experience.

Show a loading message when the application is loading

The MySpace platform is sometimes slow, and the end user is subjected to half-loaded pages with arrows in places where there shouldn’t be arrows for navigation. Since it’s all JavaScript, and at the beginning a loading image could be show, why not do that? All it takes is showing a layer at the beginning of the JavaScript call, and hiding that loading layer as soon as the page is built.

We’re talking three lines of code.

Please, don’t you want a better experience for your users for three lines of code?

Test your application

As I have posted previously, nothing frustrates an end user more than an application that doesn’t appear to work, because they think it’s their fault. Test, test, and test again. This is especially true with some of the Flash applications on the platform — most of them have some kind of issue that makes them break.

Consider all the edge cases and build error messages around them

What happens to your application when the connection to the platform breaks, or it returns a malformed result? There should be some code in the JavaScript that considers all error messages that could happen when interacting with the platform, and provide a solution for each one. It doesn’t have to be elegant, but it should hide that there was some kind of issue with the system.

Make the application look good

Most of the applications I’ve seen so far look like the Omaha, Nebraska Greyhound Terminal (don’t ask, I’ve never been there). Hire a designer to work with you, and make the application look better — that will encourage usage, and give legitimacy to the application as a quality product.

There are other ways to encourage the viral spread of the application without sending out bulletins

The MySpace terms of use for the application platform doesn’t allow spamming the users, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reward people for encouraging installs; some of the applications have come up with some unique ideas, like giving out bonuses if over a certain amount of friends have the application installed, or another bonus when someone installs the application from your profile through a link. There are many, many ways to make promoting your application fun without breaking the rules.