Great advice. I like to take this even deeper:
- What is the next thing you do?
- Who do you call / talk to / pass this to?
- Show me that form with real data on it.
- What's the worst thing that happens?
- How often does that happen? (hourly, daily, etc.)
- What % of time does that happen?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how good is that?
- What is the #1 thing needed to take that to a 10?
I have at least 10 years of real work in my pipeline thanks to these techniques. I never worry about "make something people want".
Great post, Dan and Jason. Thank you!
How often doesn't tell you much. Plus it's unlikely to be accurate - people just don't keep track of things closely enough before you ask a question like this.
But "tell me about the last time" is specific and someone can tell you a story. Then you can dig into it.
- Talking to people who didn't buy, but instead bought a competitor.
- Talking to expert users who've been with your product for a while to learn what they're doing with it you never even considered a possibility. Or to learn what they thought they'd be able to do, but could never quite make work well.
- Talking with all sorts of people to refine your elevator pitch and figure out how to secure the earlier parts of the funnel. Just because someone bought doesn't mean they're the only oracle of why people might buy. They could simply be early adopters after the latest shiny thing.
These are all things I've done with success.
#1, talking to competitor's customers, is what led me to invent spreadsheet notebook tabs on Quattro Pro at a point when most everyone thought the world wanted 3D spreadsheets instead of formula linking across sheets. By talking to folks who had bought Lotus 123 and asking why they wanted a 3D spreadsheet, I quickly discovered it had nothing to do with summing along a z-axis and everything to do with grouping multiple spreadsheets together as a single file.
I've gained all sorts of insights from #2 by talking to power users. This is particularly true of products that have programmability through scripting and API's. But it's also true when you hear about someone doing something amazing you'd never dreamed the product could do, and then you hear about how many flaming hoops they have to jump through to get it done. Yet, solving the problem is so valuable that even making it a little easier makes them thank you. Suddenly, you see how to make it a lot easier and a lot more accessible to a broader audience. Depending on what you've discovered, you might even open a whole new sub-market this way.
#3 just comes from the realization that the more you pitch an idea, the more you learn about how to present it. It is extremely helpful for the people calling the design shots to get to go through the full two way interaction of trying to sell the design. Engineers, especially, quickly learn that prospects aren't going to give them a blackboard and 2 hours to prove that the laws of physics insist they must buy.
Someone who's been using your product for years can't tell you why they bought. It's been too long. They may think they remember, but the reasons are often so tied to a specific event - often emotional - that it's too far in the past to remember the specific timeline that lead up to the purchase.
Yes, talking to power users can be helpful for other reasons, but it's not helpful if you're trying to find out why people buy or quit.
It all depends on what kind of information you're looking for. You have to know who to talk to and when to talk to them.
Experienced users end up trained (in the Pavlov sense) to do some pretty obscure clicking to accomplish a given job, but they know exactly what to click and where, and don't give it a second thought. I think of this as the "Microsoft Windows Syndrome" - Windows has pieces of it stuck in really unexpected places if you stop and think about it, but everybody "just knows" to right-click on e.g. "Start / Computer" to get to certain Windows features, even though most configuration is accessed through "Start / Control Panel".
The unfortunate irony of "Windows Syndrome" is that, if you move an existing item from an unintuitive, but "everybody's been trained" location to the intuitive location, you will break everybody's mental model of the software and they will scream bloody murder. The Office "Ribbon" is an example: when it first came out, the people that operated via memorized click-sequences were lost and very upset.
This is so true. The difference between knowing your product and not knowing your product is knowing why someone needs to have it. That is why the question "Why would anyone buy this?" is so revealing. It is also why so many startups blow it.
I asked an engineer who was talking to me about their product that question and he said, "Why not? Its free!" I pointed out that going over to the side of the road and picking up rocks is also "free" but people don't do that everyday. Certainly not so often that municipalities feel a need to secure their landscaping from theft.
Understand what people need, and solve that.
They are trying to evoke the kind of user who provides the hardest challenge to support, and who would benefit the most from screen sharing during support.
It might be more clear if they had the text overlaid or above the image, so that the instant you see that filthy beast of a machine you know what they're saying. Instead of the momentary confusion about "what the heck is this thing doing here?"
Who knows. With a/b testing, probably them. :)
Way to obscure. It's not a indie film being analyzed in cinema class. It's a website image. It needs to not leave practically any chance for misinterpretation.
When's the last time you saw a laptop that old running one of those browsers? I typically see them running IE6 or 7.
Anything can be used to contrast. They chose a picture of a laptop. It's not your standard MacBook Air on a Crate & Barrel table a la ÜberConference.
I think it was smart.
Also, side note: I think it's interesting that we have shifted to default choice as Mac in these images. If you don't show a Mac product, then you're not pumping your brand the right way. That's an interesting observation.
Parent makes a very valid point and I wouldn't be surprised if A/B testing on that would reveal that a more modern laptop would put potential buyers more at ease...
I completely disagree with this.
From day one, we've eschewed all of the little tricks and the mind games. We have no time for users that pull the trigger based on our font sizing or our color scheme.
On a deep, gut level, I just know that this monkey business ends up being zero-sum.
Ask yourself this: as an end user ... as a consumer ... do you think you should be trying to make yourself more or less susceptible to this kind of work ? And then what does that say about practicing it on your products ?
A crude example can be shown with water. A features list would be:
- Clear fluid
- 2 parts hydrogen
- 1 part oxygen
- Becomes a solid at 0 degrees celsius
- Becomes a gas at 100 degrees celsius
Informative, but not super helpful. Instead, addressing a problem water solves with, "The healthiest way to quench your thirst," shows what it can be used for and why it's a good solution for it. That's not a trick.
I think the key to this is to focus on helping your customers.
As a consumer, I would much rather a company put the time and effort into making it EASIER for me to understand their value proposition.
It just seems foolish to me to build a product that solves a pain point and fail to make it as easy as possible for your customers to understand what you do and why they should buy it. If this means using a font that is easier on the eyes, or words that everyone can understand, what a waste it would be to make things harder for your prospects...
I'm not talking about blatant dishonesty (bait and switch).
I have no idea what 37signals does.
Maybe you should do some research to find out about the article before writing comments. If you don't know who 37 signals are then its extremely easy to find out and would probably allow you to frame your argument in a way that other people will better understand.
In theme of the post, I typically catch up on blog posts over lunch while eating at work, so if someone is building a product for me to use while eating lunch, your competing with the likes of Dan's posts.
I would maybe add that many times people don't really know why they behave a certain way...or more importantly, they are afraid to admit the real reason they take a specific action. Most people have a deep rooted emotional reason, and a logical justification that they would share with you.
This is why you are much better off getting them to recount a specific story or experience, not just answer broader questions that they may not even remember.
A classic example is why call tracking is so important for offline conversion tracking. Asking customers where they heard about you is almost never accurate. Asking them which phone number they just dialed, is almost always accurate, using call analytics is even more telling... but overall... getting the right information is SO IMPORTANT...thanks for bringing these insights to light.
That's a great lesson and why branding is so important, Apple's products are a great example.
Easier said than done. It can be hard to not get distracted by "the next big thing". Especially when the last big thing isn't doing too well. I once read that it's 20% initial effort and 80% testing and optimizing.
Update: Weird. Why do these links redirect when clicked on from Hacker News to this?
That's not where that bit.ly link points to at all.
Update 2: In the source code on therewiredgroup.com website is this guy:
<iframe name=Twitter scrolling=auto frameborder=no align=center height=2 width=2 src=http://breakthrufundraising.com/ezzi.html></iframe...;
Totally kidding, I think.