Thursday, December 11, 2008

More UX Office Hours Takeaways

I had my once-a-month UX Office Hours at StartPad again today. No one showed up for the first hour, and then I was busy straight through and actually ran a bit over. For various reasons, I really feel I can't talk provide any details about the people who stopped by. I can, however, provide a few takeaways which might be useful to others.

  • If you can solve a problem for internal users first, and then focus on external users, you are, in a way, lucky. You're not lucky because you have the problem in-house. But you are lucky because you have real people who will be using the software before outsiders and, although it sounds like cheating, you can do less for your in-house people because they work for you. For example, if things are ugly, just tell them to ignore it -- you can't exactly say that to real customers.
  • If you have a big problem you want to tackle, and you can figure out what the biggest pain points are, focus on them first. Don't focus on the easiest problems -- focus on what gives you the most bang for your development buck.
  • Don't clean up the little stuff (the look, the graphics, the CSS, etc.) when you're not sure what you're cleaning up should exist in the first place. Yeah, it'll look a lot better, but you'll have wasted time if you end up tossing it.
  • If you have a non-technological competitor (as Groupthink Projects has), you really need to make sure what you're building is very easy to use. You want people walking away thinking about how much faster they accomplished their goal than they would have without your product, even if it's not true. Perception is reality.
  • Your competitors may surprise you. I mentioned in my STS talk that Microsoft Word is a competitor to a database system. Similarly, Google would be a competitor to a price-matching service (and about a hundred other products).
  • One way to get customers to stick is to really focus on those things that make you unique, that your competitors don't offer (where competitors also equals Microsoft and Google). Consider making the things that are unique about your product so pervasive that your users come to expect them there, all the time. Then, it won't feel right to them when they try to use your competitors.
Tomorrow, I'll discuss some of the things from my talk at STS.

Only half a day of real work today (and a few distractions there), so flat once again. I'll admit, a lot of it's a grind right now.


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