How not to iterate yourself to innovation

new delicious

I’m a big fan of Delicious. Have been using it since 2006. And was glad when former YouTube Co-Founders bought it from Yahoo a few years ago to keep it alive. Thinking how these guys have built the #2 most visited website in the world, you would think they wouldn’t have any problems with their next project.

It hasn’t been an easy ride. They’ve changed quite a bit since then, and just as they did with YouTube, they’ve followed the same startup logic: Try something, see what happens, if it works do some more and if it doesn’t, fix it.

Yesterday, Delicious updated their website. Once again. And here’s what happened, once again:

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What?! I wasn’t too happy:

I wasn’t the only one who complained about the bookmarking issue. I saw other people complain on Twitter about bookmarking too. Also, some of us couldn’t log in.

Of course, this isn’t the type of response you want from users when you launch a new feature or service. And, I’m sure the people in charge of Delicious don’t want this either. But why does this keep happening?

It is happening because how they are going about it is classic iteration. Delicious is in a fight for relevance, but nothing they have tried so far looks like a finished product. It seems to me that Delicious believes its users will stick around while they fix-it-as-they-go. I don’t know how much patience users have. Like I said, I’m a fan of Delicious but am seriously considering switching to Pinboard.

The problem with this thinking is that the Delicious experience hasn’t been seamless from the beginning. Call us “demanding users”, but if the experience isn’t seamless from the start, we’re going to complain. Another important point, as Delicious has shifted their focus towards discovery, they’ve completely forgotten to improve how all the information gets into their site: bookmarking.

This will sound like common sense, when you are iterating at least make sure you test out problems before launching. For a case study on how to do this, look no further than Google. If there’s one company who iterates at scale, and does it well, it is Google.

The point: I didn’t write this post to criticize Delicious. I wrote it to provide you with another example to add to your “what not to do” list. Iteration is important, but don’t forget the basics. Remember, “what not to do” is more important than “what to do”.


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