User Interface & Design – east vs west

A few weeks ago, Claire Miller from the NYT stopped by our office. We talked about about a bunch of stuff.

One thing that often comes up when I speak with reporters is the east vs west topic. How are VCs different, how are entrepreneurs different?

I was pleased when she brought up a different topic.

Claire noticed a difference between NYC and SF startups in the area of design and user interface. I completely agree and have noticed the same thing for some time now.

Here’s one way to look at it: when it comes to user interface & design – NYC is more like Apple and SF is more like Google. Both offer a wonderful end user experience. But the difference is striking.

Apple is about a beautiful design and Google is about the utility. Two examples that point out the obvious: Apple’s iPhone and Google’s search. Both are brilliant but opposite ends of the spectrum.

Here’s a few more examples from those two industry titans: iPhoto and Gmail. I can’t imagine Google creating an app like iphoto. And I can’t imagine Apple ever agreeing to ship a product that looks like gmail (again, both products are highly successful and I adore both of them – that isn’t the point of this post).

So in the case of NYC startup’s design & user interface, consider Tumblr, Etsy, OMGPOP, Vimeo and the Hype Machine.

Compare those companies to the aesthetic and design of some notable high profile young companies in the bay area like Friendfeed, Mint, imeem, and zazzle (fwiw I think twitter has attributes from both coasts. maybe because Jack and Biz lived in NYC for awhile <g>).

There are plenty of exceptions on both coasts but signficant differences have emerged. Maybe it’s because NYC is home to media & design and the bay is tech/efficiency. Or maybe it’s who the founders look up to. Or maybe it’s something else.

Going forward I wonder if the coasts will borrow the best ideas from each other or if they will just innovate along their own way.