Seriously Unimpressed with GoPro’s Pathetic User Experience

I got myself a GoPro HERO3 camera, and I've got to say, I'm solidly unimpressed with GoPro (the company, Woodman Labs) so far.

  • You have to access their web site before you can use the camera, but the web site is mostly down.... server doesn't respond for most requests.

    [There's an update below on this...]

  • The web site, when it loads, is one of those flashy “form over function” sites that looks good (for some definitions of “good”), but difficult to actually use, and the incessant animations are annoying. A search for “manual hero3 black” produced no usable results.

  • The thing arrives locked in a well-made waterproof housing, but there's no information on how to get it out. After I was finally able to download the manual, no search that I could think of brought up info on how to open the housing, so I had to visually scan the 65-page manual to find the description (on page 59!) of how to get it out.

    The description in the manual is with words only... no pictures... and was impossible to follow if you didn't already understand it. It shows that they didn't even bother to test their manual. When I wrote my book in the late 90s, I went to the considerable trouble of having a dozen folks who had no knowledge of the subject provide feedback on the manuscript, pointing out to me where my assumptions or descriptions were inappropriate, and the book was much improved for it. I'd expect at least as much from a two-billion dollar company.

    I resorted to searching YouTube for instructions on how to open it. The fact that someone felt the need to post a video on how to open it is pretty damning evidence against the company's pathetic instructions.

  • It came with a note saying that a firmware update is required before you can use it, but when the web page does finally load, I got “The page you requested could not be found”, so I can't even try to use the thing.

  • There's no “quick start guide”, so I guess that even after I get the firmware updated, I have to read the 65 pages of manual before I can play with it. (Perhaps this is better in the long run, though.)

At this point, I haven't figured out how to even turn it on, but I have confidence a geek like me will be able to figure it out despite the apparent efforts of GoPro to make the experience as bad as possible.

Before anyone suggests that the web problems are because it's Christmas, let me point out that it may well be the reason, but it's certainly no excuse. The company very well knows that it requires users to download the manual and a firmware update before the camera can be used, and the company knows exactly how many they've sold. There are no surprises here to a company with a clue.

On the plus side, we woke up this morning to find that Santa had delivered the luggage that I'd gotten separated from on my recent transpacific trip, about 30 hours after it should have arrived. I had already gone to Walmart to buy some cheap clothes and gloves, but it's nice to have our proper stuff. And as per that recent trip, I'm still so very thankful to the anonymous hero, so all in all, I have much to be thankful for... just not my GoPro.

Update: — so, after apparently being down most of the day without so much of a word from the company on their own site or even on Twitter, they're finally claiming it's a problem with Amazon Web Services. That would indeed be a valid excuse on their part, because they should be able to trust Amazon. It doesn't excuse the complete lack of word on their part for so long (how hard would it be to add a note to their site, or type a sentence to Twitter?). And of course, all the other points about their inept support still apply.

Update #2:I still couldn't access via their web site, but found no shortage of people complaining about poor service and web-site problems going days back. But by chance, the company did finally post an alternate link on Twitter that I happened to see 26 seconds after they posted it (24+ hours after the first complains of an inaccessable web site started showing up on Twitter), but the target site is as dead as their own. Sigh.

Update #3: — After many hours, I was finally able to get the thing working and firmware updated. Immediately wanted to throw the thing out the window with the ear-shattering beep it kept making, but thankfully was eventually able to turn the beep off. Got as far in the manual as setting the date (which should have been set automatically when the firmware was updated) and found that the firmware crashed when I tried. Sigh. Going to bed.

All 4 comments so far, oldest first...

from go pro facebook

For those of you who got a GoPro for Christmas here are temporary links to the user manual until the site is back up and fully functional.

Our website is experiencing some technical issues at the moment. Unfortunately, the problems are on the host end, but are being worked on. We are very sorry for the inconvenience and frustration, as we understand that people are very excited to update their new HERO3 cameras.

Please note, you do not need to update your HERO3 to use it. The update unlocks some great features, like Wi-Fi, but the camera is still awesome and ready to rock straight out of the box. Your patience is appreciated.

— comment by ed pouso on December 26th, 2012 at 1:35pm JST (10 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

Good luck with the Hero 3. I have a Hero HD and the wrist strap they sell gives you absolutely no idea how it is supposed to be attached. I similarly found a YouTube video where someone showed the way to use it but the manufacturer was not of any use at all. However, I do love what I can do with the camera and imagine the Hero 3 is a nice step up. Enjoy it and, while a happy Chicago resident, I am glad for you that you are not still here! Hope the snow is not too bad in Ohio. Rob – Chicago

— comment by Rob Edgcumbe on December 27th, 2012 at 9:55am JST (10 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

I bought the Hero2 when it came out mainly because of the wifi bac and iphone app feature which was to be released a month or so later. Well the wifi bac got delayed about 6 months, the app several months more. They finally came out…about a month before the Hero3 was announced with wifi built-in and in an even smaller/lighter body.

I still haven’t bought the wifi bac but I’ve heard it requires 3 different firmware updates before you can start using it.

— comment by Jesse on December 28th, 2012 at 10:18am JST (10 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

Their softwares/firmwares are horrible. Between the remote, the wifi back, and the camera, you have to upgrade 3 firmwares, such a pain, and it doesn’t work half the time. Forget it, when you have two sets of devices (stereo rigs). 6 firmwares to upgrade in the right order. With many resets in between.

Using the iphone app (delayed for so many months) is so hard with a Hero2. Delays, no connection, …

Decent hardware, but bad software.

They bought cineform software a while back, a least they give a free consumer version, that processes stereo content.

With a a value now of $2.25 b, you would think they could get some tech support and decent software engineers.

I would say “decent hardware” only as far as the video capture stuff goes… the actual camera body and all their mounting hardware that I’ve seen this last week seems very “designed by committee” to me… just horrible. I had such a good impression of GoPro prior to actually trying to use one, but they’re so gratuitously-poorly designed and presented. And their packaging has the worst form-over-function I’ve seen in a long time. Really disappointed in every aspect of GoPro so far. —Jeffrey

— comment by luc on December 30th, 2012 at 5:51am JST (10 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink
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