interview startup user experience

Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.

00_logo …So echoed Darrell Silver, one of the four co-founders of CommandShift3, as he explained one of the guiding mantras of and with whom I had the great pleasure of being able to sit down and speak with recently at his cool downtown digs. We discussed a range of topics, from the ideas and processes that led to the CommandShift3 web site to what features its community of users can expect to see as the product evolves.

CommandShift3 had 1mm page views within the first month after launching. A large factor in achieving this number most definitely comes from their keen attention to the User eXperience.

How did CommandShift3 zero in on such a rockin’ User eXperience?

Darrell best described their product experience design process as…

“iterating through to simplicity”

When the CommandShift3 group approached designing the User eXperience, simplicity was always in the forefront of their thinking. Every decision revolved around this guiding rule, from the potential use of tabs to where and if to use AJAX.

The Screenshot

One of the early challenges faced, one that can almost be a metaphor for the iterate-to-simplicity process, was with respect to the display of the websites that participate in the voting.

How do you size the screenshots correctly?
How do you present the most necessary information at each stage? What is that necessary information?

Through iterating on this problem, they were able to zero in on the solution that you see today. You can observe that the screenshot starts at the largest allowable (and necessary) size, with minimal labeling. The first screenshot presented, has already been reduced slightly in size to accommodate space and address the need for simplicity — presenting just the information necessary to make a voting decision.


Occasionally, to make a voting decision more detail may be needed and is achievable by way of the zoom button.


As the screenshot progresses through the process, clearly less information is needed. The image goes from big to smaller to smaller.


Everything Simpler

Darrell is quick to point out that, while the iterate-to-simplicity process may be most evident in the screenshots, it was universally applied to every aspect of what they did. In this sense, you can see many of the creative influences of CommandShift3 on other sites that they feel epitomize a professional simplicity and/or found ways to present just the most necessary information, such as…

Darrell and the rest of CommandShift3 understood that they were designing for the design community — and this audience always notices every last detail.

Some more of those details…

  • URLs. They needed to be short, simple and bookmark-able.
  • Colors. They understood that the CommandShift3 audience would instantly spot if a color was slightly off or if there was some other mismatch.

“Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.” the philosophy expressed by Darrell Silver in my interview and shared by the other founders (Erin Sparling, Lee Semel, and Amit Gupta) that led them all down a path – of creating a cool product with an awesome (and, in some cases, addictive) User eXperience.

Quick Fact:
Do you know what was the initial inspiration for (click here to find out)

On the Competition…

Another part of CommandShift3’s success was that they were able to identify a completely unserved need within the designer community and come up with a very fun and entirely unique product.


More recently, some competition has been emerging. The most notable competition comes from Technorati founder, David Sifry in the form of You can read more about it here.


Obviously, by just comparing the homepages of CommandShift3 and OKorKO, CommandShift3 remains in a league of its own.

Despite my attempts at getting Darrell to dive into a compare and contrast session or spark a more spirited debate about CommandShift3’s competition, Darrel, flattered, began and concluded his assessment of the competitive landscape when he, with a smile, said, “they have a great idea.”

Time for Making Money!

Nope, and not at all, explains Darrell. CommandShift3 never had any kind aspirations for the level of success that they are currently experiencing — their goal, their singular goal, was, and remains, to serve the under-served design community and provide them with an interactive, online product and community that is both fun and useful. Basically, all they currently appear to care about is not money, but staying focused on the near-term and building a “community that opens up communication channels and lowers the barrier to great design.”

Coming Soon…

Darrel points out that CommandShift3 is all about serving the community. They are a “small team doing something that the Internet allows. That is what gives them the ability to do what they want to do and what other people want them to do.” CommandShift3 won’t “win by locking people in,” but by “being focused and responding to the audience; and being the audience.”

As far as Modular Innovations and data portability, Darrell made it very clear that what mattered first and foremost was SERVING (his emphasis) a community. Evolving within an environment of Modular Innovation and allowing for all sorts of data portability are seen to be very much inline with their community “service.” It was made clear that, as aspects of the site are tweaked and CommandShift3 evolves, people can rest assured that they will be able to own and control the content that they create and contribute to the community at-large. And, as Darrell succinctly put it, “we will absolutely — how could you not be open to letting people keep their data and make it more modular — you are SERVING a community.”

Some of the new features (and tweaks) CommandShift3 will be serving and you can expect to see soon are…

  • Flagging and ranking favorite sites
  • Browsing your “battle” history
  • Looking at what other people like (or don’t like)
  • Observing how popularity of a website changes as the design of that site changes
  • Tweaking some of the language on the site details page to be less confusing. Don’t worry, they are on it.
  • …and a lot more cool stuff.

Printing Screens

CommandShift3, the team that has given new, and social, life to the Print-Screen ‘button’, has truly identified an, until now, unheeded call for a strong, interactive community for all designers and their fans. They have created a product that is fun to experience, interact with, and share through, as well as great for research or exploration, or even testing out new concepts on a large audience.

I had a great time speaking with Darrell Silver and (we all — the fans of CommandShift3) look forward to the many great things coming soon from CommandShift3.

Enjoy & if you haven’t already done so… go and check out! & Have Fun!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy


  1. …you said it: “the audience notices every detail.” The design in fact is for the audience and changes are generally made to make a users experience positive and to maintain repeat users…


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