Setting expectations with design the bad way.

Wired has a nice article about Uber in this month’s issue and in it they mention GetAround which is a peer to peer car lending service. I’m looking to rent a car for the month of August and I thought to myself, “Hey, someone who goes on vacation for the month of August might leave their car behind and might want to rent it out” so I checkout the site.

I fire up the site and am greeted with a classic example of 2012 modern elegant web design. Every pixel is placed according to a designer’s eye and the whole thing exudes confidence in the product.

Which is bad.

Nowhere on the site does it say “this site is brand new and to be honest, we don’t really have a lot of cars available yet, but if you like this idea, join the site, give us feedback and be part of the community”. Which is what it should say.

Type in 10036 for New York, NY and you get zero cars. Okay, maybe Manhattan is too car hostile, let’s try a random town in New Jersey – the most densely populated state in the nation FWIW and you get zero cars. 

Crunchbase says Getaround raised $5.13M in seed funding and I understand they need to spend that money quickly if they are going to impress those investors and fend off competitors, but there is a fundamental disconnect at play here.

I’m not picking on these guys, I had the same reaction with Foodspotting.

I wanted to love Foodspotting and the design drew me in right away when they first launched. My last startup was focused on reviews and I am a little obsessed with the idea of doing per-dish reviews. The problem is that as soon as you set the expectation that the site is executed flawlessly and professionally, as soon as the user encounters a bug, something that hasn’t been thought through properly or just a lack of user traction there is a huge disconnect and I believe that is harmful to the site’s prospects.

It is easy to find counter examples. Take a look at Twitter in 2006:

source: How 20 popular websites looked when they launched

Imagine if Twitter launched instead with what they have now and featured language like “Twitter lends itself to cause and action. Every day, we are inspired by stories of people using Twitter to help make the world a better place in unexpected ways.” and you went on and it was just Ev and Biz talking about the weather in San Francisco.


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