Ideas from Last Night

Every once in a while I stumble upon a website that is so clever, so brilliant, and so perfectly designed–and yet so obvious–that I can’t believe I didn’t think of it.

Today’s example of my shame is www.textsfromlastnight.com. The first part of its brilliance is that you know right away from the URL exactly what it is: It’s a site where people post funny things they texted last night, usually under the influence of alcohol. The posts are crude and mostly sexual; all are anonymous except for the zip code.

Here are a few reasons why this site is awesome:

  1. It’s funny. No, it’s hilarious. Every sentence is a punchline.
  2. Simple interface. You get exactly what you want when you load the page: the most recent texts posted on the site. You want to see the best of the best? Go to the top, click “Best Nights,” and choose the time period you want to look at. A baby could figure out this interface.
  3. No barrier to entry. You want to post a text of your own? You don’t have to fill out a long sign-up form or type in some captcha word. Just type your area code and the text and hit “post.” You just want to give a text a thumbs up or thumbs down? Click once and it’s done.
  4. It’s clearly quite popular. Nobody wants to go to the restaurant that nobody else goes to. Same with websites–people want to visit popular sites. You can see right away that a ton of people are commenting and rating each text.
  5. It’s niche. This site isn’t trying to beat Twitter and Facebook, even though it’s essentially the same concept. It’s Twitter for texts from last night. But it does what it does so well that people would rather go here to post their texts than do so on Twitter (which is arguably easier). I’m surprised Twitter doesn’t let you thumbs up/thumbs down tweets.
  6. Limited, consistent ads. The site has two ad blocks–one on the left, one on the top. They’re both sponsored by American Apparel, whose image is perfectly in line with the site. My only issue is that the slideshow style of the ads is really distracting when you’re trying to read the texts.
  7. It is what it is, and nothing else. The site does one thing, and it does one thing well. I’ve had to stress that as I’ve been creating TypeTribe. It’s easy to keep adding components in the hopes that one of them will take off. I think you have a much better chance of a site working if you pick a target market, decide your mission, and stick with it.

Well done, textsfromlastnight. I applaud you and I’m insanely jealous of you.