How Loladex worked, part 1: Introduction

I made peace long ago with the ephemeral nature of online products. Unlike some folks, I don’t routinely keep archives of what my various Web sites used to look like — though I do sometimes visit the Wayback Machine to refresh an imperfect memory.

Loladex was different, however, and I did take some screenshots before it shut down. I had a few reasons:

  • For better or worse it was my site, more than anything else I’ve worked on.
  • I knew the Internet Archive wouldn’t work because (among other things) Loladex required a logged-in state on Facebook plus dynamic searches of licensed data.
  • I wanted a record of the UI solutions we created, so that I could improve on them in future products.

This post is first in a series that’ll discuss & illustrate the features of Loladex that I think are still relevant today. In all cases the UI is a work-in-progress, frozen now in time. We learned many lessons, but I’m certain we ended far from an optimal solution — if such a solution even existed.

Before I start that, however, here’s some catch-up on Loladex.

Loladex launched in spring 2008. It was a Facebook application, meaning it was accessed via by users who had signed in. With the exception of games and Facebook-run applications, this approach is mostly passé now.

Loladex allowed you to find local businesses — restaurants, plumbers, psychiatrists — that had been recommended by your friends. If none of your friends had already recommended, say, a plumber, you could ask them to do so.

A true online equivalent to word-of-mouth recommendations: It’s not an original idea, but in 2008 no one had made it work yet.

And indeed, that’s still the case in 2011.

In the next post: How users made recommendations on Loladex.