Mobile

Can Color beat the backlash with an improved interface?

Mobile startup Color had one of the most spectacular launches in recent months — and not necessarily in a good way. Because of its lineup of co-founders (including chief executive Bill Nguyen, who previously founded music service Lala) and its massive $41 million funding, there were plenty of articles about the company, many wondering, “Wait, how the heck did this app raise this much money?”

On the bright side, $41 million certainly gives a company room to experiment, and Color executives have promised that improvements will come quickly.

Color is a photo/video app. The idea is to organize photos and videos by events and groups, rather than by user– so that you can see all the photos taken at a party you attended, even if you aren’t friends with some of the photographers. Color is also supposed to become smarter about who your friends are as it sees where you use the app and with whom.

After watching co-founder and president Peter Pham’s demo last week, I thought that Color offered a really promising model for social interaction on phones. Once I downloaded the app for myself, however, I was left scratching my head about what exactly to do, especially when there was no one using the app with me.

The Palo Alto, Calif. startup released an update today with significant improvements for Apple’s iOS devices (the Android update is planned for tomorrow). There are now new icons for navigating the photos — you can see photos from events that are “Nearby”, a “Feed” of relevant photos, and a “History” of groups that you participated in. And yes, there are actually words underneath each of the icons explaining what they do, so you don’t have to stare at icons and wonder. Color says that the update also improves the app’s speed.

Even though these changes are relatively superficial, I’m still encouraged. By making it a little easier to navigate, Color is taking a step in the right direction, though there’s still lots of room for improvement. Pham has admitted that there were problems with the user interface and promised that there are more updates coming soon.

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