Tumblr’s Hellsite High blog teaches new users how the site works

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Tumblr recently announced plans to go all-in on Gen Zbut wooing a new set of users on a 15-year-old platform has its flaws.

Tumblr creators have been reporting recent drops in engagement that they believe are due to an influx of young TikTok users. As a platform, Tumblr thrives on reblogging, but TikTok users have learned to simply like — not share — the highly relevant content provided to them by the app. And while Tumblr suggests posts and blogs it thinks are relevant to you, it still doesn’t work in the same magical way as TikTok’s cutting-edge algorithm.

This is not new; learning to use Tumblr has always required more manual work than almost any other social platform. Site features like beacons and requests are steeped in more than a decade of user-centric refocusing, which can make them confusing for newcomers.

On Friday, April 15, Tumblr employees responded to those concerns by promoting a recent series of posts on an advice blog they dubbed “Hellsite High.” The title is a play on users affectionate nickname for the platform, and the site breaks down Tumblr with an extremely helpful back-to-basics tag. Topics like “Shitposting for Newbs” and “Saying Hi – From Super Public To Super Private” guide readers through the most common community uses of Tumblr’s features (as opposed to, say, their intended use).

It probably won’t appeal to the casual user, but it’s a treasure trove of cheat codes for curious newcomers who are a bit more invested in making Tumblr a new home on the internet.

The only confusing part is the clunky design of the site. The nostalgia of the 90s is in order, especially among Gen-Zers who reclaim it. But Hellsite High’s serious take on the concept is an odd, lackluster mix of low-res fonts, colors, and clip art that ironically makes the most important information harder to read. It’s an unusual misstep for the Tumblr team, which typically delivers high-end visuals, even as they struggle to keep their community happy. They haven’t yet become fluent in Gen Z.

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According to Cyle Gage, Principal Backend Product Engineer at Tumblr, Hellsite High is just the start of a long line of hosting the platform plans to provide. In an article on their personal blog, they Noted that “a revamped travel guide for new users to entice them to like and reblog (for starters)” is in the works. Later, they will “rebuild the entire onboarding feed to encourage blogs to follow and select meaningful tags to follow.”


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