Kintera opens up…but is the platform worth standing on?

As reported by Allan and others, Kintera is launching Kintera Connect, an open API for developers to build on the Kintera Sphere platform. This is the right move…by the wrong company.

Open APIs are hot. The most successful companies working on the web in any and all industries are building up developer communities that will hitch their wagon to the platform’s already existing architecture. Google Gadgets, Facebook applications, Word Press and Movable Type plug-ins, Salesforce appExchange…you name it. The nonprofit industry is no exception. Just nice to see that we’re coming to the party at around the same time as everyone else for a change.

So back to Kintera Connect. Absolutely the right idea at the right time. But Kintera!?! Ugh. We left Kintera for GetActive in December 2005. Why? Many reasons, the most significant being the horror that was Kintera Sphere (their software platform). Our office manager at the time described it best…like walking through thick mud. It only worked with Internet Explorer on a PC. Even the most simple tasks required multiple clicks all over the interface, especially if you hosted your own site and was only using Sphere to manage messaging, advocacy and donations as we were. Since Kintera incorporated modules they had purchased from other companies, elements were inconsistent between different areas of the platform. Each module was in its own silo, not working well with other modules. It was slow and unwieldy and the documentation was barely useful.

Now I know that was over 18 months ago, and the backend may have changed drastically since then. It begs the question…if Kintera Sphere is worth building on, why doesn’t the company have screenshots or a tour on their site? If it’s there, I couldn’t find it. Convio has a video tour. Salesforce offers a free trial, demo videos and screenshots. What does Kintera tell potential customers on their website? Not much. Lots of business-speak buzz words and testimonials that say nothing. Case studies and lists and lists of features…but absolutely nothing about how usable those features really are. Nothing about how those features work together beyond the CRM. Yes, they have webinars…but I don’t want to sit through a 30 minutes sales pitch. I want to see how functional and flexible the interface is for a small organization like ours without a dedicated IT staff and millions in the bank. Unless they’re only interested in the gigantic NPOs and that’s another story. Not that I’m thinking of leaving Convio/Salesforce at this point. We’re not.

As wonderful as an open API sounds, Kintera doesn’t appear to offer my organization anything compelling. Google and Technorati searches don’t pull up a lot of “I love Kintera” stories that aren’t hosted on Kintera’s site. Not a great sign.

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6 thoughts on “Kintera opens up…but is the platform worth standing on?

  1. Nothing has changed in the 18 months since you moved on. The documentation is still lacking. It is still slow and unweildy and requires many clicks and back and forth to do things. I trudge through the mud that is Kintera Sphere daily now. I’m ready to wash it off.

    As for the opening up, I don’t care. I don’t want it. That’s my first reaction. But at the same time, I’m interested to see how much they think it’s worth. Can they ‘flip a switch’ and make my current Sphere open up? Or do I need to pay out the wazoo to get it? I’m in a a place of limbo. I’d love to dump Kintera, but an open platform would be nice…

  2. Good points — all of them. I’ve told them the hardest parts of opening up isn’t the API but the developer outreach that has to happen and the commitment to letting people make money off their system. That’s a really hard thing for these companies. One can imagine that Kintera is still having a tough time with revenues after everything that happened earlier this year.

    I will try to sign up with Kintera’s developer program soon and I’ll see what they’ve got. We have to imagine that their program is going to be downsized considerably from salesforce.com’s. There are less than 300 people at Kintera now so one should extrapolate the difference between them and salesforce.com accordingly. They’ve got a lot of cultural baggage they need to shed and let’s hope they can.

  3. I’d agree with pullingmyhair out. I’ve used Kintera, Convio and a customized version of WordPress. Of the three, Kintera is the most difficult to use. I have coined my own saying: Kintera is random.

  4. I worked at Kintera during the days when many clients had help building their web sites with the Kintera project management staff. While the layoffs and reorganization affected the clients, the software changes so quickly that even the internal staff couldn’t keep up with the product enhancements. Kintera Sphere is the best marketing CMS system I have worked with to date. With anything software users must learn and Sphere has so many features that it can leave users in the dark. I suggest using the partner program for an inexpensive way to learn the shortcuts within the software. Email me if you need help ahaynes@annehaynes.com

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