Brad Feld

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When The User Experience Breaks

May 20, 2007
Category Technology

I had a great weekend in Boston with the men over 5 feet tall in my family.  We watched the Red Sox paste the Braves (13–3) and then watched the Braves paste the Red Sox (14–0).  It was rainy and shitty all weekend, but that didn’t stop us from having a great time.

When reading my blogs this morning as I woke up and prepared for my long run, I came across yet another article on Geni and their $100m valuation.  I’ve never really been into genealogy so I ignored Geni, but after spending a weekend with some genetically linked people, I was inspired to give it a try.

The splash screen was great – it got the info from me that it needed to get started (first name, last name, email address.)  I was ready to roll but then got caught up in the three email “confirm this is you, change your password, confirm that you are really you” loop.  Then – the hell began.  First problem – the Tree screen wasn’t centered properly in Firefox and as a result I couldn’t enter my father’s name.  I fired up IE to try that and had a similar problem, but the formatting was a little better so I was able to pull it off.  I entered my mother and nothing appeared.  I entered her again and it said something like “we found her – is this the one?”  I hit ok and it said “sorry – data problem.”  I then entered my brother and got the “sorry – data problem” error. 

Done.  Less than 10 minutes and Geni lost me, at least for now.  I have no clue what the real problem was and if I’m an isolated case, but it’s bad news when the user experience breaks on a site that demands extreme viralness to succeed.  I’ve written in the past about how all the little things really matter with consumer facing sites.  My experience this morning is yet another example to toss on the pile.

Postscript – after writing this post, I closed my browser and started again from scratch to see what would happen.  The data sort of is there (my dad, mom, and brother appear), but when trying to add Amy I had the same UI problem in Tree view and when I go into List view there doesn’t appear to be a way to add a new person to the tree.  Now I’m really done for now.

Time to go run around the Charles River in the rain and ponder the next generation of user interface paradigms while I’m in the proximity of MIT and the Media Lab.