We’ve Failed Again, Which Is Good and Normal

Image of two iPhones, both featuring the Aboard app, against a soft purple background

Look at that. It’s pretty sweet. It makes me want to move to NYC.

Hello! I’m Rich Ziade, the other co-founder of Aboard. It’s my first go at the newsletter. We’ll see if Paul lets me write another. I’m fine either way (I’m George Harrison, just hanging back).

My very first newsletter writeup will be about failure. I love failure. I’m no fun at all when things go well and we should just be celebrating. Instead, I think about future failure.

We are really, really late on the Aboard mobile app. That was a failure. Totally on Paul and me. Mostly Paul. It wasn’t a total failure, because the app is out now for iOS, and it’s really great and getting better every day. But still, we failed for a while. 

What’s the best way to deal with failure? My dear newsletter readers, I give you the gold standard on dealing with failure:

Full-page ad with four columns headlined HOW CHIAT/DAY LOST THE HONDA ACCOUNT

It’s an amazing ad. Although, yes, definitely written during a very different time.

We can only go up from here. 

Paul and I have been messing with computers and software for most of our lives. We somehow convinced each other that everyone still flops on the couch and pops open their laptop to check stuff out on the World Wide Web. Thankfully, a lot of people do. We love our laptop friends. But it turns out everybody else (3 billion or so of you):

  • Don’t really use a laptop (unless you’re forced to)
  • Don’t care much about email (except your boring work email)
  • Don’t know what a folder is (both digital and physical). 

This is a digital folder with other digital folders in it:

Image of folders from Windows 95

This love for folders, batch files and web applications scrambled our product roadmap compass for a minute. Little by little, the world showed us how much it changed. Mobile was not a nice-to-have. It was going to be absolutely critical to Aboard’s adoption and success. 

And that’s where the headaches really started…

Mobile first except mobile isn’t first

Look, we can obviously build a mobile app. Aboard is brimming with top-tier engineers and designers (well, just one designer, but he’s pretty great). We can build anything. It wasn’t a limitation of capability or skill. Not even experience really (we were using React Native, a close cousin of the React framework which powers the Aboard web app). 

We stumbled because we didn’t socially prioritize the effort within Aboard. Mobile ran alongside an ambitious and aggressive product roadmap that mostly bore fruit on the web app. This created a few challenges for us:

  1. Our best thinking and problem solving was exhausted by the time we turned our attention to mobile. 
  2. The mobile effort was trying to keep up with the pace of progress on the web app when it hadn’t even arrived yet!
  3. While the world was showing us wonderful engagement once people came into the web app, nearly 100% of our marketing and messaging was viewed on phones

The ads worked great. The site works well. It’s just that nobody wants to fill out web forms on a phone. And even if they did, they have absolutely no idea how to come back to a web application inside of a browser that is inside of a social network that is inside of a phone. 

And to say it again: The team did what we asked them to do. The users did what we asked them to do. This was on Paul. And maybe a little bit on me.

But that’s all in the past now. The Aboard mobile app for iOS is here and free to download (Android is coming soon! We swear!). Quickly and easily turn any link into Aboard’s patent pending wonderfully visual data cards. It’s a quick and convenient way to curate and share great content from just about any app or website. 

As we look ahead, we’ve got some incredibly exciting things coming into view on our roadmap. Did we just experience the very last hiccup in our journey? Probably not. We’re just happy to be on it, and we look forward to sharing more stories (good and bad!) as Aboard continues to make its way into the world.