thesixtyone is awesome

January 22, 2010

The other day I got a lot of attention for “bashing” Posterous, a Y Combinator company, for having in my view poorer design than its main competitor Tumblr, which is 4 times bigger according to, and for saying that it’s because Tumblr is better designed that it is more popular. There was a lot of back and forth related to that post (for those keeping score, Paul Graham disagrees with me, John Gruber agrees), most of it interesting. I used this example to highlight two trends that I still believe are very much real:

  • today and increasingly for consumer web apps, design (not just how it looks, but also how it works) matters more than “raw” technology ;
  • New York is coming into its own as a hub for startups that care about design and produce great design, something which is often overlooked by Silicon Valley engineer-centric companies and a certain Silicon Valley engineer-centric mindset.

That being said, I never meant to imply, as some took me to mean, that nobody in Silicon Valley understands design, that there aren’t web startups with great design in Silicon Valley or, even more absurd, that Silicon Valley is not a tremendous startup hub. These are all ridiculously false propositions.

So today I want to give back to Cesar what belongs to Cesar and laud thesixtyone, a Palo Alto, Y Combinator company. The company started as a (not really well designed) “Digg for indie music” that helps indie musicians get discovered and make money. Their newest version, however, is a tremendous example of wonderful design.

First of all, as you can see above, it is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. And unless I’m mistaken, they get this beautiful look through HTML5 and not Flash, so big kudos there.

And second of all, in the design-is-how-it-works category, they refined their mechanics away from simple Digg-like up-or-down voting to Foursquare-like game dynamics, where you get a limited number of “hearts” to hand out to bands and artists and are incentivized do things on the site to earn rewards.

It’s a great discovery system for new music. I’ve been using it for the past couple of days instead of the Hype Machine and Spotify and it is truly a great service (there are a couple of annoying UX kinks but I’m sure they’ll work them out).

So there. Of course there are Silicon Valley startups that understand great design, and thesixtyone is one of them. Now check them out and tell me what you think in the comments.

7 Responses to “thesixtyone is awesome”

  1. At the risk of sounding a fool, what is ‘UX’? I’ve seen it used a lot, but never quite grasped its meaning.

  2. questavita Says:

    thanks to let me know this great social site.

    • QuixoticNeurotic Says:

      Sadly, it’s not really a very social site anymore, the new design rips out most of the community features.

  3. Wild…just last night I noted thesixtyone’s redesign as an example of the emerging power of design described in your Tumblr/Posterous post. Glad to see that intuition confirmed.

    Jonathan, UX refers to user experience.

  4. Ryan Graves Says:

    UX is ‘User Experience’ or ‘User Interface Design’, how a site is used & interacted with.

    I love your take on both design and more specifically thesixtyone. It’s beautiful. HypeMachine, which was my favorite has got work to do to step up their game here.


  5. rafaelbrandao Says:

    Design and usability are two different things. Maybe it has a cool design, yes, but try to use it. The “old fashioned” design was all about usability and it was also easier to discover new music or to avoid music you would probably don’t like.

    If you want to try a cool music adventure on thesixtyone right now, check “open mic” (of course if you easily find it… what I’m not sure that it will happen). Listen 10 songs, and tell me, was it good for you?

    The older site had a lot more music discovery tools. The tools they offer us now is just not working at all. So if you ask me, what’s most important, I believe it is usability.

  6. QuixoticNeurotic Says:

    Have you actually tried using it? It’s not a great design at all – it hardly even works. When you try to navigate around the site, it keeps changing the song. The old design wasn’t the best looking, but it worked, and it worked very well. That’s better web design to me than the new one.

    Also, this site NEVER had a vote up or down feature, it was always give the song love if you like it. A loooong time ago you had a certain number of points to give to the songs you liked, and got more points if the songs did well, but for almost a year now they’ve had the heart system in place. The more hearts you give it, the more points you get from it.

    I’m impressed how little you seem to really know about this.

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