Path: A Personal Network

Path has received a lot of press recently with the release of Path V 2.0 and its user interface overhaul. The app started just over a year ago in November of 2010 with a focus on being a personal social network with just 50 of your closest friends. Reviews around the web were mixed, and the limitation of 50 friends was something many people weren’t too happy about — the app didn’t live up to expectations.

After realising that some serious changes were in order, the team spent many months churning out what was to be a vast improvement on the original version. Head past the break to see if the team had a successful relaunch.

The Basics

Upon first getting the app, you are required to either sign in as an existing Path user, or create a new identity. While I had absolutely no problems signing up, there have been reports of people having trouble with this process (however that may simply have been due to the ginormous demand on the launch day of Path 2). From then on, you are given the option to add a cover , which is essentially a clone of the Facebook cover, and a profile picture — although neither are obligatory.

Once this is done you are ready to get socialising.

Setting up Path

Setting up Path

There are other details you can add, such as your birthday or linking up your Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Foursquare accounts — these can be difficult to find, but they are in the bottom right corner of a new post.

Design and Functionality

Those of you who used Path before the redesign will appreciate the new simplicity found within the second version’s interface, as well as the extremely well performing functionality of the app.

Navigation

Following a trend originally set by Facebook, Path offers a fantastic new method of navigation. The way it works is that there are three sections to the app, and you swipe left or right to navigate your way around. It’s very intuitive, and rather than swiping first followed by an action, the navigation is in real time and it’s more like your pulling the view across in a very fluid movement.

To the left you will find the sidebar, which is the parent of the main view. You can select from here what screen you wish to switch to. The centre (main) view houses your feeds and thirdly there is the Friends screen on the right, whereby you can see your current list of buddies as well as add new friends.

The centre view is shown just enough to hint its possible to swipe to bring it back

The centre view is shown just enough to hint it's possible to swipe to bring it back

The core design

The main view is where you will spend the majority of your time, with the default being Home. This is where you see all your posts and those of your friends, along with all the rather annoying notifications such as X is now friends with Y, and Z is sleeping. Despite the bombardment of tiny and (mostly) irrelevant notifications, this area is a pleasure to use.

The home view, a post with comments and showing more details

The home view, a post with comments and showing more details

If the post has comments attached they are elegantly displayed below along with any of the emojis your friends have used to portray their feelings. Right aligned to each post is the little smiley face emoticon along with a number that represents how many people have seen the post. Tapping on it will bring up in a popup the avatars of the afforementioned viewers as well as the ability to humble their post with an emoticon, or comment.

Delightfulls

Clearly the design team at Path HQ have been working hard to keep the design to a minium. For example, there is no time stamp fixed to each post. Instead, a small animated clock will appear as you scroll down, telling you the time posted as you reach each one.

The scrolling clock

The scrolling clock

If you’ve heard anything about the pleasure people have had using the app, you’ll have no doubt heard about the “magical” plus button. Stuck on the bottom left of your view is the red + where you can update your path. You can add a picture (or video), add that you are with someone, update your location, tell your friends what music you’re listening to, update your status and the notorious asleep/awake updates. The reason this element is receiving a lot of attention, is because of the way is elegantly spings out, with the + changing to an X to dismiss it in an equally captivating mannor. It may not be the best thing in the world, but it sure adds some personality to the app and makes updating your path that much more interesting.

The wonderful pop-out '+' button

The wonderful pop-out '+' button

Another example of a “delightable” found within the app is when you add a post. You’ll see a very smooth animation jump out of the little dot below your avatar. It’s subtle, yet another way to make the app feel a bit more, um, sexy.

Lost in design

These design decisions are very difficult to make, and while they can make the user interface nice and cluster-free, it can also make certain tasks more difficult. For example, deleting a post is not a simple swipe to the right as you might expect (that will bring you to the left view), you have to click on the small smiley face on the right hand-side and in the bottom right corner you will find a trash can. Similarly, it took me while to find out how to integrate my Twitter account, expecting it to be within the settings menu. Instead,  it’s embedded within the Add a Post section once you are ready to post it.

Deleting a post and attaching other social networks

Deleting a post and attaching other social networks

The Concept

While we’re about reviewing apps, and the main purpose behind this post is to share the experience of using the app, it is also to help you make a more educated decision as to whether you might want to get it.

When the app first came out, the number of friends was limited to 50, on the idea that this social network would have to differentiate itself from Twitter and Facebook. In order to do that, they went for the less explored domain of a personal network for just your closest friends. Now the number is at 150 friends, still within Dunbar’s number but more open due to the comlpaints of 50 being just too small a number.

In theory, there is a great deal of potential here. After all, we care a lot more for our close friends and what they are up to, based on the fact that not only is it nice to know what they are up to, but also, since they are close friends, you are more likely to be interested in what they are are recommending. Many people on Facebook have hundreds of friends, and to be honest, there will likely be many on there that you are not interested in where they are right now, or what they are watching. So Path has the potential to be your “Facebook Elite” if you will, and being those friends you want to know about.

However a problem arises here — for this to work, you will want every one of your close friends to be in this network, otherwise you’ll find yourself switching back to Facebook more and more if you want to find out about the people not in Path. Currently Path only offers clients for iPhone and Android — suitable for most apps, but not for a social network. Unfortunately, most of my close friends don’t have these phones, many having Blackberrys (god bless) or dumbphones. To make things worse, you can’t use a web client, so if you don’t have your iPhone/Android then you could be completely out of touch from your Path peers.

Final Thoughts

Personally I love the app. It’s got a great design with some fantastic elements in it, and it works very fast. The underlying concept of Path however, makes it a bit more challenging for me to recommend to anyone. Although people may say it’s a social network in its infancy and it just needs time to develop, the truth is that it’s a fast paced industry and you don’t have much time to dawdle.

Basic aspects like having a bio and being able to message people directly within the app would make it so much more functional for me, as well as having an app for the web and other mobile platforms. If these sort of changes were made I could really see myself using this app a lot, but it seems that the way Path is going with the “personal network” approach, it makes it unlikely most of these changes will be made. I want to use Path, and I’m trying to find a place for it, but they’re not making it easy for me.


Summary

A smart personal network with stunning design and great functionality — yet the lack of a web app and a few missing features make Path less welcoming.

7
  • http://about.me/mikeabasov Mike Abasov

    >having a bio and being able to message people directly within the app

    There’s really no need for this. All your Path friends are supposed to be your closes real-life friends and family. You already know who they are as well as their phone numbers.

    10/10

    • Toby Seers

      Yes I agree with you Mike, and I think that could work great… if my close friends could use the app. A lot don’t have iPhone/Android, and since they can’t use a web client there’s no way I (and I presume many) could use Path exclusively.

      Don’t get me wrong I think the idea is pretty good, and the app is lovely to use. But as a result of me not being able to have just my closest friends, I (and I know many others) have added a lot of people from Twitter who I don’t know in person, but am acquainted with – thus I get friend requests from people I may not remember their full name, and if it had a bio it would make it a lot easier for me.

  • Matan

    Awesome design wasted on a bad concept.

  • http://timothybsmith.com Tim Smith

    I love this app. All of my close friends have either iOS or Android so, I’ve been able to connect with people I’m actually close with. The features are great, I’m glad there is no web app, it prevents it from becoming a time waster.

    10/10

  • mk

    the app is indeed great, but I have one (maybe stupid) question: How/where can I add smileys to my own comment?
    I don’t mean the five regular ones besides every shared moment, but those which are also shown in this picture: http://iphone.appstorm.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/3rd.png like the victory sign etc. Maybe I’m blind, stupid, or both, but I have no idea how can I add them. When I’m typing fore example a thought, just the regular keyboard pops up and nothing more.

    • Heyzahir

      You need to download the app! Emoji is the name

  • Heyzahir

    I recently had a problem with the app…..

    Somebody who I didn’t (want to, ever) add on Path commented on one of my posts. From what I understand from the main website, Path is essentially private until you share it with somebody. Soooooooooooooo yeah. Why the lapse?

    I connected my Path to FB and Twitter and share only the stuff that’s appropriate (I have family and kids on both networks; I work in a school) and kept my Path to my more adult side. It can’t be just because that person is a friend on FB he has access to my Path? That’s just insane.

  • Heyzahir

    Oop, wait. He might have commented on the twitter link that I posted via Path. Didn’t realize they can still comment on it even though they’re not on my path.

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  • teresa

    is there anyway to enable android to read the emoji/emoticons posted on path? by iphone users?

    • aryeka

      yess… me to.. how to read the emoji.. ?
      i am using android phone..
      please help us…

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  • lily

    path sangat bagus..tp saya ingin bertanya..
    aplikasi ini apakah bisa di instal di samsung galaxy ace?

  • Trevor

    There is something that comes up on my screen that says that you have no moments today. How do I get that to go away. I have tried almost everything. Can someone help

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