Creating your own avatar online has become a popular trend. Everybody wants to have their own personal expression to make them stand out from the crowd. There is a different type of communication over the internet, and you need something to make yourself stand out next to everyone else. Most people have unique username’s on websites, but avatars are a great way to stand out with style.
With Frenzoo, you can create your own 3D avatars right through your web browser. All you need is a little creativity, expansion of mind, and some time on your hands. I got an interview with the site’s creator Simon Newstead, where we cover everything from the creation of the site all the way to future plans and advice for web 2.0 app designers! I’ve got all the dirt on Frenzoo, starting with the site’s official trailer!
What is the idea behind Frenzoo?
Frenzoo is a fun creative environment for 3D avatar style & expression. A web based community where you can create your own unique looks, dress up and shop a catalog of user generated fashions, compete in contest (fashion games) or just enjoy socializing with people around the world. It’s not yet another virtual world – it’s focused on lifestyle and fashion and it’s pick up and play.
Where did you get the idea of creating a 3D avatar-type of game site?
It came from an idea developed by the founding team – wanting to combine 3D avatars & socialization with fashion & style. It was and is something I thought was a great opportunity and hadn’t been done yet on the web. Sure there were large virtual worlds but they were huge and clunky for the average non-technical user, not to mention being too complicated and somewhat confusing. So we decided to do something more focused and very user friendly.
And from a personal point of view it seemed like fun to be able to create my own looks and it’s something our members have really taken a liking to since we kicked off our beta earlier this year.
Can you walk us through the design and development process of Frenzoo, from conception to first launching the site?
Sure. We started with some prototypes using a download client model and focused more on the real time chat element but what we found was that the initial large download was a big barrier. So we made the decision to develop purely for the browser and focus initially on the fashion creation tools for the user, so they could express their own unique style and create the content for the community without us being the bottleneck.
We then went to work on the core web 3D tech and in parallel mocked up the interface elements and then rapidly got the alpha and then beta in place. Since then we have got into a great cycle of user feedback, iteration, improvement. We are very member driven in our development.
Are there any sites you can credit for using as inspiration in the early days of development?
Well, I personally always have had a huge amount of respect for Second Life for their open environment and creativity of its users, user generated content is also a key part of the community at Frenzoo. But being web based our interface is more influenced by user friendly Web 2.0 sites – in fact one prominent blogger called us the Facebook of Avatar Fashion & Style.
How many people currently work for Frenzoo, and what are their job positions?
We have a core development team of 10 people including engineering and design, and then have a great family of volunteer interns in different countries mainly on the marketing side who assist with community building and gathering user feedback. There are also a bunch of friendly and helpful volunteer angels on the site as well… we’re really lucky to have such a great core to the community.
Have you seen any substantial growth in Frenzoo recently, or since it was first launched?
We’re happy with our progress and seeing the number of members picking up month on month as we develop our beta and the word starts to get out. Still a ways to go of course but we have built a great community. It was definitely a slow start as we did a pretty low key launch as we wanted to get the product out as quick as possible during development to get into the real world feedback and improvement loop. Exciting to see momentum starting to build up now, especially with first real revenue coming in!
Do you have any upcoming plans or updates for the site?
We’re planning to launch on Thursday the first phase of a pretty major new initiative – “Pro 3D Creator program”. Basically it’s an interface to allow professional designs using 3D software such as 3D studio max to directly import their own clothes and templates for others to use. It should really help bring our marketplace to the next level. We also have a bunch of major developments in the next 2 months specifically, around socialization and creation elements.
What is your favorite web 2.0 application and why?
Well, it sounds old school but I’m a big fan of good-old forums. I’m active in a couple of gaming forums, they really have their own set of culture and appeal even if the tech is very Web 1.0 – it works and they won’t disappear!
If we’re talking Web 2.0, for work Google Docs takes the cake – an essential tool we run virtually all our “non-coding” business on. For fun, Crunchyroll.com is a great anime video site.
If you had any advice for someone creating their own web 2.0 app, what would it be?
Focus on the users – test your concept as soon as humanly possible with real human beings. That is the real proof in the pudding and can get you quickly into understand what’s great or not about your app by having them actually use it (or see a mockup, that’s also fine at the start).
We used to whiteboard and strategize about assumptions for the future, but we have learned that the only thing that matters is the real user experience. The sooner you can get feedback on that, the better. Oh, and to not give up – if you keep adapting and iterating with discipline chances your product is sure to improve.