Kickstarter launches terrific new iPhone app, but their fulfillment still needs a lot of work

Kickstarter has, at long last, launched their iPhone app. It's focused on helping you discover interesting projects to back, getting updates from your friends and the stuff you've backed, and, if you're a creator, keeping your backers informed and updated. According to Perry Chen, Yancey Strickler, and Charles Adler, writing on the Kickstarter Blog:

The app is a whole new way to experience Kickstarter. We took things we've learned from the past three years of building the site, and applied them to a total redesign for the iPhone. We redesigned the project page, browse pages, and others. And we focused on making three things really useful and fun: finding new projects, keeping up to date with projects you've backed, and offering great tools for creators.

The app looks clean, flows quickly and smoothly, and once you login via Facebook, let's you do pretty much everything you need to do on Kickstarter while mobile. In terms of design and implementation, it looks to be a home run. If you enjoy Kickstarter and you have an iPhone, get the app.

Now here's the point where I go off the rails. As good as the Kickstarter app experience is, Kickstarter's fulfillment process remains poor. I get the whole argument about "backing" isn't "buying", but that's sophistry. Kickstarter, from inception, was set up as a way to get creators money and people, stuff. It's ecommerce as surely as Apple Online or Amazon. If that's not the service they want to provide, they should disallow any reward offering beyond a simple, sincere acknowledgement. Once rewards become goods and services, it's ecommerce.

Of course, there's absolutely a huge difference between Kickstarter and more conventional ecommerce sites in that unfunded projects will never ship, and even funded projects may fail due to the people behind them. But Kickstarter's current problem is far more elementary, and far less forgivable than this: Funded projects that are successfully completed can still fail to get into the hands of backers due to simple logistical confusion.

Kickstarter can't fulfill.

I've backed a dozen or more projects. By which I mean I've hit the button and pledged money. I've gotten maybe 2 or 3 of them. Some never shipped, others are still delayed, but several simply never got fulfilled. Invariably, somewhere along the way, the backer needed my address, or to confirm billing, or product details, and I needed to visit their website and login to some extra account, or... the list goes on and on.

Worse, I've seldom if ever been aware of any of the above. I've found out while checking junk, or when I happen to login to Kickstarter, or when I'm trying to find out where something is that should have shipped long ago.

Just today, curious why I hadn't heard word one about my Pebble still, I went poking around inside Kickstarter, found nothing, started searching, came across a separate Kickstarter site, found out I had to login there, and was promptly asked for my shipping address. They didn't have it. And I only found out by happenstance.

The process should be: I click, they ship. That's it. Instead, it currently involves multiple, unnecessary points of failure that results in projects not getting all the money they should, customers not getting the awesome stuff they expect, and a poor experience for everyone. If they have limitations due to Amazon handling transactions, or concerns about sharing user information, figure them out. That's not the customers' problem. Make it "just work".

I click, they ship. That should be it.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.