How Poor Usability Can Irrevocably Damage A Brand

Natuba is a new photo sharing site focused on the iPhone.  The first time I heard of the service was through TechCrunch.  To set the scene, getting mentioned on Tech Crunch can really set up a service.  In some cases, it’s literally the biggest push a new Web service will ever get.  It’s the third most populsr blog tracked by Technorati and Alexa has it at being in the top 2000 sites in the world.  It’s a big fish.

Natuba - iPhone picture sharing

So what happens when a new site, like Natuba, gets criticised on TechCrunch for missing features thar it actually has?  Surely the interface designer starts kicking themself?  You’ll notice that there have been a couple of updates made to the TechCrunch article since it was originally published.  This is to clear up that most of the functionality Mark Hendrickson bemoaned as being missing, is actually there.  While it’s admirale for TechCrunch to go back and make the changes, the ship had already sailed.  The majority of readers, who no doubt use RSS, would have read the un-amended article.

This should really be a lesson to anyone launching, designing or thinking about launching a new web service.  Having the functionality isn’t enough, it has to be findable, obvious and easy to use.  Submitting a site to something like TechCrunch is like a usability test distilled.  The TechCrunch bloggers get to spend very little time looking at a site, having to go through many every day.  They are also very specific users.  At the cutting edge and used to web services.  They represent their readers, who you would have to say fall into the same ilk.  Tech savvy with little time on their hands.  The TechCrunch bloggers, and by extension their readers, simply don’t have the time to go and learn a new interface.

The remaining question is, how much did the original posting hurt Natuba?  Personally, the original posting won’t hurt as much as the visitors it will lose because of the poor interface design.