- Easily save, share and discover links — they’re called bitmarks, like bookmarks.
- Instantly search your saved bitmarks.
- Curate groups of bitmarks into bundles and collaborate on bundles with friends.
- Make any bitmark or bundle private or public.
- See what friends are sharing across multiple social networks, all in one place.
- Save and share links from anywhere with our new bitmarklet, Chrome extension and iPhone app.
In the same blog post, the company indicates that all of the existing features that users have come to know and love are still present, but may have moved around. In this post, the company points people to the knowledgebase to help them through the transition.
bitly appears aimed to become more of a social integration destination, possible deemphasizing their traditional offerings in favor of what they feel are more critical products moving forward.
It’s common business knowledge that to survive, companies can’t risk becoming just one-trick ponies with no ability to adapt to a changing world. After all, as the old adage goes, “Adapt or die.” Even if bitly previously provided other services, it was known primarily as a link-shortening service… and one of the most popular ones out there due to its cost (free), ease of use, a good feature set.
In that spirit, bitly has done what any good business should do. They’ve diversified their product portfolio in order to better absorb the ebbs and flows that come in any business.
However, at the same time, it seems that the company—either intentionally or unintentionally—has made the decision that link shortening and related analytics are not core businesses anymore and in a rather dramatic way. Indeed, the redesign now imposes an expanded number of steps in order to accomplish tasks that were “one click and done” in the old bitly.
The reaction from the Twittersphere has been fast and fierce and mostly negative, although some users have reacted positively to the changes. This does not appear to surprise bitly’s CEO, Peter Stern, who indicated that the company expected some fallout, going so far as to say “It’s the response from the vocal minority who are quick to complain about any change.”
In other words, it appears that the company is not that concerned about the negative immediate feedback and feels that, over time, people will acclimate to the changes and continue to embrace what has proven to be a fantastic service since its inception.
My immediate reaction was to believe that bitly ruined their service, and I’m not alone in that sentiment. Here are a few tweets that have gone out today regarding the new bitly.
- “@Bitly has lost its way. You’re a data service. Make it easy to shorten and analyze. Leave acct management to Tweetdeck.”
- “Bitly took a chance and ruined their service this weekend… used to be intuitive… now it’s just a mess.”
- “Wow, did you guys ever ruin a perfectly useful link shortener.”
- “Hey @bitly – adding more steps to the link-shortening process just made me want to stop using #bitly.”
To be fair, there have also been some positive comments. A number of people have congratulated the development team for their efforts. I join these folks in congratulating any company that can continue to innovate in a fast-changing world.
A number of the compliments have indicated how wonderful the new site looks. I agree. The facelift looks very good, but it’s a matter of form over function. What used to be a one-step process is now… well… at least three. Many people use the service as it was initially intended—as a link shortener.
From a pure process and efficiency standpoint, this “on a dime” turnaround understandably looks flawed from the get-go. A service that went from “copy, paste, click” to one that includes more steps and, well, thought, is one that long-time users will reasonable react to in a negative way.
If bitly intends to remain a popular link shortening service, it would serve the company well to listen—really listen—to the feedback they’re getting and not immediately dismiss it as “the response from the vocal minority who are quick to complain about any change.” I agree that people are generally adverse to change—even good change sometimes—but when you’ve redesigned an easy-to-use service into one that leaves users simply staring at their screens attempting to decipher the new process, that’s not a problem of user perception; that’s a problem in user interface and process design that could have been avoided.
But, there’s another possibility. Perhaps bitly wants to shed its traditional link shortening history in favor of its new social integration and easy sharing services. If the company’s intent was to make a clean break with the past and work on building up a new user base, then the steps they have taken make sense. That said, I find it really tough to believe that bitly would simply want to break their ties so quickly.
While I believe that every organization needs to adapt to changing markets, bitly’s “on a dime” change was too much too quickly and the company seems to know it, but doesn’t want to admit it. bitly could have made similar moves in the long-term by staging their changes in order to better ease existing users into the new paradigm. Instead, they’ve taken the “tear the band aid off” approach and are now fighting the perception that comes with that sharp jab of pain that people experience when that happens.
Were I in bitly’s shoes, I’d add a simple “one click” box to the bitly.com front page that takes the pain out of this change for users. Given how the company was able to tell what was a link and what was text in the old bitly, it seems as if the company could reasonably automate the creation of a bitmark and related note and allow users to continue to enjoy the ease of use that defined the previous service.