Co.Design

Tumblr’s New App Has 3.3 Billion Unique Designs

The mobile app has enough ways for every Internet-connected person on earth to design a Tumblr.

Sure, you can change your poster image and your avatar as much as you’d like. But whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or virtually any other social-media site, your identity and feed can only fit into one strict template. You are but a series of unique photos trapped in an otherwise universal layout.

Tumblr wants to change that with their updated iOS and Android app, launched today. The new app will for the first time enable users to edit their Tumblrs on mobile devices.

But a lot of services offer that option already. What makes Tumblr different is that it will offer users enough flexibility to create one of 3.3 billion unique templates. That’s enough layout options for every Internet connected person on earth.

"Mobile is so young, and there’s so much to be done, but I feel like this is a big step," says Tumblr creative director Peter Vidani. "The way we exist on these mobile apps doesn't need to be like the [iPhone's] Contacts app. There doesn’t need to be that much uniformity. We can look different inside these networks."

Users can change their layout by going into the edit tab and then simply touch anything they’d like to change. Elements that can be adjusted will wiggle, much like the icons do in iOS. And the new design can appear 1:1 on desktops, or it can exist solely for people to see on the mobile platform.

Admittedly, the customization options are still relatively conservative—manipulating the header image, avatar, avatar shape, title font, title color, background color, and accent color don't offer that deep of a dive into layout design. But because Tumblr offers the option to not just tweak but to remove something like a header image altogether, the possibilities grow exponentially to reach that 3.3 billion figure.

More importantly, this is just one step in Tumblr’s aggressive strategy to promote mobile-based editing. Given that about 50 percent of time spent on the service is via smartphones and tablets already, the design team is aware that mobile editing is poised to grow. So they're focused on bringing flexibility that's normally reserved for desktop designing to mobile designing too.

Vidani says he’s open to vastly different layouts from the vertical timeline that Tumblr’s mobile app features today—such as Pinteresty grids or even pages that flip left to right. And building these sorts of experiences into the platform will certainly enable users to share more of their personalities.

The challenge will be deciding exactly where to draw lines in the layout sand. "Where do we want uniformity and that core functionality?" Vidani asks hypothetically. Because while Vidani would love for every Tumblr to look and feel different, he also recognizes that omnipresent access to stock "like" and "share" buttons are pretty essential to good old-fashioned Tumblring too.

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