[img_assist nid=2419 title= desc= link=none align=right width=589 height=640]The founder of Wesabe, a failed, Mint-like personal finance startup, <a href=”http://blog.precipice.org/why-wesabe-lost-to-mint’>wrote a blog post on why his company failed</a>. It’s good, seemingly courageous (he takes the blame fully and squarely) and, better yet, draws direct comparisons to the company that killed his, Mint.com.

The money paragraph for me? This one, on the importance of usability:

Second, Mint focused on making the user do almost no work at all, by automatically editing and categorizing their data, reducing the number of fields in their signup form, and giving them immediate gratification as soon as they possibly could; we completely sucked at all of that. Instead, I prioritized trying to build tools that would eventually help people change their financial behavior for the better, which I believed required people to more closely work with and understand their data. My goals may have been (okay, were) noble, but in the end we didn't help the people I wanted to since the product failed. I was focused on trying to make the usability of editing data as easy and functional as it could be; Mint was focused on making it so you never had to do that at all. Their approach completely kicked our approach's ass. (To be defensive for just a moment, their data accuracy -- how well they automatically edited -- was really low, and anyone who looked deeply into their data at Mint, especially in the beginning, was shocked at how inaccurate it was. The point, though, is hardly anyone seems to have looked.)

Rings true to me, on all accounts. I was an early user (actually, an early user of both Mint and Yodlee), and Mint was really, really inaccurate for a while, but it was also really, really easy to use. Not too surprising to learn after the fact it was done via screen scrapers.

Removing complexity often runs the risk of oversimplifying things, but the alternative, as Wesabe learned, can be death.