Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Debacle

So have you heard? Delicious is no more. They were bought by Yahoo in 2005 and had more than 5.3 million users by the end of 2008. In 2011 it was sold to AVOS Systems (according to Wikipedia). And on 9/27/11, it all came crashing down.

AVOS launched a 'back to beta' site that September day and suddenly there were screams heard around the web.

Where are my bookmarks?
Why am I banned?
Why can't I log in?
Why wasn't I told about this?

Many features users had come to rely on had been disabled, removed or were temporarily unavailable. Understandably, users were pissed and they railed against the changes.

How did it go so wrong? 

AVOS didn't bother to understand how people were interacting with the site.  Just talking with some users, informal interviews even, would have provided this information.  As a result, the tagging system (used by so many) is now harder to find than gold at the end of a rainbow. 

Changes AVOS made weren't really needed or desired.  Delicious worked just fine without any interventions. Sure, there were improvements that should have been made along the way, but the API played well with others and some communities (especially fan-based ones) had long since integrated the capabilities of Delicious into their online lives.

AVOS threw away the idea of legacy. I've seen clients want to come in and redesign their site and make a radical shift in IA and/or graphic design and then be perplexed when this new design didn't test well with their current users. You have to give a nod to the previous design. Whether it be carrying over the majority of the IA or using the same logo and colors, users need something to identify with while they are learning to navigate through a new design.

So what happens now?  I suspect that AVOS will loose bucket loads of users right and left. Why should they stay if their bookmarks and favorites are gone? That was the only reason they were using it in the first place.

In the mean time, a new site, Pinboard, has cropped up. It's been around for a while but hadn't been able to garner many users when Delicious was still in wide use. Now that Delicious has spurred their users, many are turning to Pinboard. It looks a lot like Delicious did in its early years: lean, no frills and very useful.

The founder, Maciej Ceglowski, has reached out to Delicious users via Twitter, encouraging them to put together a list of features they would like to see on Pinboard. So what did the users do? They started a google doc:

This is the greatest example of user driven design that I have seen in a long time.  Maciej will get on there now and again and make comments about the suggestions, giving direct feedback to the users on the features they want.

It's like taking usability testing or feature focus studies and turning it up a notch to include 100s of people.

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