I received an email from a colleague of mine the other day to join a new business networking website called, RefferalKey, that boasts a unique ability to boost my network and help make savvy business contacts via their networking algorithms and their “meet and greet” pannel at the bottom- a glorified AOL chatroom from back in the late 90’s.

As someone who vehemently hates spam, I cautiously joined and began to search for people that I know, name by name. There are options to connect with your twitter followers, email contacts and linkedin users, but I chose not to because: do unto others as you would have them do to you.

Baseline: I hate spam.

My first analysis was that this is going to be a bee’s nest of spammers and shameless marketers with nothing important to say. So far, I’ve been right. It doesn’t take too long to set up, maybe 30 minutes to go through their guided profile, less if you don’t care who you connect with. One solid point is that both people need to  connect with each other in order to earn the title of, “Colleagues,” the sites name for mutually agreed on connections.

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(as you can see, in the past 18 hours, my “network” is already filling up with spammers.)

I think the weirdest part of this website is it’s design. Is it web 2.0? Is it new, modern web? It has no sense of style, the color combination is hideous and it looks like it was thrown together in a weekend by a couple of cheap coders overseas. Is it social? or is it based on a specific network of trusted friends…like LinkedIn? Neither.

Let’s talk about design: in the past, I worked on a social website called Errund.com. So, I get the difficulties of designing a social website that’s bland enough for everyone to use, but spicy enough for everyone to like. This website misses the mark on both of those.

The orange, beige, gold and grey combo seem to be geared toward the 65+ group; I don’t think that’s what they were going for. Perhaps this color combo was the product of the creator’s personal preferences, rather than market research. The blue links and titles however, DO stand out…too much. The rest of the website fades into the background making it VERY difficult for a new user to navigate the platform. Then, there is a fifth color, a burnt orange that you can see in the “people you may know” palette over on the lefthand side. Why? That DESTROYS any connection a user will have with the interface. Ok, I can click on the blue things, the orange blobs are buttons, and I can click on the darker orange too?

Having a lack of visual consistency makes the website seem like nothing more than a platform for false advertising. I think that’s why so far, they’ve attracted people like, Miss Mocha Sexy Pants69 and Dr. Suhas mhatre.

Their logo is a well executed concept of, unlocking doors for new opportunities- it gets the message across. It’s a safe way to present the concept, but it needs a little kerning love. The two r’s in Referral are VERY close, perhaps it was intentional, but it’s a bit difficult to read on a smaller screen.

Next, spacing elements. Nothing lines up with anything else, except on the left hand nav panels. That’s very well laid out, and the designers did a great job with how that information is presented. I like how there are only 2 options in the profile palette, but I do wish the profile photo was a bit larger, or that someone had taken the time to design the “profile completeness” bar at the bottom of the photo. It encroaches on the minimal space for the profile photo and could have been handled in a different way so as to become a stand alone element.

There is so much dissonance within the way this website is laid out- things like that are what make it seem like a spam factory, and will ultimately make it a spam factory.

A non-design issue that I have with the fundamental principle of the “colleagues” title of “friends” is that, I have had a bunch of offers from people that I don’t even know. A colleague is an upper echelon term that marketers haven’t destroyed …yet…that implies a real, human connection with a team or individual based on a collaboration or time spent working together. I haven’t worked with miss Kitty sexxxy pants or whatever her name is, nor do I want to be professionally affiliated with someone in the adult entertainment industry.

So, ReferralKey:

“Meet and greet” panel at the bottom right corner is a good idea, but needs to be fleshed out furthur. They’re missing a step in the communication process.
Logo is a well executed concept
Has the potential to be a great resource for online marketing and online networking. (making contacts from your couch if you will)

Horrible color scheme.
Distinct lack of visual consistency
Misappropriation of the term, “Colleague”
Has no spam filter
Little to no UI proofing
Human/computer interaction process NEEDS to be fleshed out more- not enough steps between wanting to be a contact VS being a contact. Needs more gates.
Larger profile photo
More information needed in the “About this person” profile section, ESPECIALLY for the “meet and greet” panel.

So, the jury is still out on ReferralKey. I’m all for strangers hitting me up there, as long as they’re relevant industry contacts with the goal of actually adding me to their network affiliations. Give this website a few more weeks/months before hopping on. Take the 45 minutes you’d spend setting up your profile and do something more important with that time. For now, ReferralKey is still trying to find it’s voice, and until it does, I don’t see it being an accurate representation of social networking.


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  • Subbarao

    It is better than BNI which is cheating members by asking money for every event they organise. They bring useless leaders to lead a chapter and take members who are totally useless to others.

    • Mollie

      Hi Subbarao!

      Yeah, I’m right there with you on the BNI is useless train. What gets me about BNI though, is that, though it is somewhat helpful, you HAVE to refer within your chapter. Business should be about referring to the person who is best suited for the job, not who paid to be part of a club.

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