My major problem with dealing with clients/customers that I'm doing custom work for is that instead of telling me what they do, or what they want to be able to do, in language that they understand, they convert it into their own private techspeak. They incorrectly drop in technical words that they've heard somewhere, and they ask for specific brands of software that they've never seen and often don't understand.
I am a normal person. Tell me your goals and your problems in plain English, and I'll figure out how to get it done. I'm pretty good at it, and if I can't help you I can probably find you someone who can.
What bothers me most about this is the idea that programmers are some kind of underclass that just doesn't get "normal" people. The truth is that we're people too who have a lot of the same needs as "normal" people.
I think the author was simply trying to articulate a rift that sometimes occurs between a party with a (perceived or actual) problem and the party with solutions for that problem. According to his barbershop example, that problem/solution rift is the result of a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem statement. If I could abstract the article in one sentence, I would say, "If you are trying to solve a problem that you yourself do not have, make sure you actually understand the problem from the perspective of the party you are solving it for before you go building things."
The author may have gone a bit far in generalizing programmers/engineers, but would you agree it is fair to say that it is easy enough for _anyone_ to fall into the aforementioned trap if they are not conscious of it?
An occurring theme I have noticed while speaking with people (not just engineers and/or programmers) is that we have a tendency to project ourselves on other people. I don't think that is a bad thing in moderation (that's a different matter of discourse), but I have had at least two different conversations with entrepreneurs where they simply could not for the life of them understand why someone would rather "just get a job working for someone else" than start their own company. It simply does not register in their world view that someone does not share their way of thinking. My anecdote is tangential at best, but my point is that the object of the article is not to diminish programmers. Rather, it is to elevate the perspective of those subject to a certain myopia that they would otherwise not think to confront.
The argument made in the article is "you are a programmer. Therefore you don't get product management techniques nor sales. Therefore you should buy my book."
It's a typical sales technique: Creating a sense of inadequacy in your target and right away offering a solution.
If you're cynical, you will notice that there's no guarantee of any kind that the solution you're being sold on actually helps. Because, people good at sales are more likely to be good at selling you random things than to be effective teachers of the knowledge they're claiming for themselves.
patio11 did a lot of good in actually teaching people to look at a market that's not themselves, but there are a lot of people following him who primarily want to make money with e-books because that is their most effective way of monetizing their skills in the absence of any ability to build products.
One perceive oneself as not abnormal when one tends to conform to societal norm and peer expectation. It is desirable to not be perceived as abnormal, because abnormality carries a stigma and being perceived as abnormal often leads to rejection.
The excitement of building something, using new technology, solving a problem (whether it exists or not) is exciting. Then you might start seeing dollar signs, or fame, or respect among peers, etc, in your mind. Nobody wants to INVITE someone to shut down those thoughts or feelings.... but we must.
I have a few ideas on my list that I think are really good. But I haven't started building them yet because I know I have to talk to a few people in certain industries first to confirm the ideas are good. They just sit there though. For some of these ideas, I'd rather they continue being a pipe dream instead of talking to someone and possibly have them shot down.
Or maybe I'm really not normal.
In my experience it makes sense to talk to them twice, once to determine general needs, and then a second time to actually have them try out the prototype.
I never believe uncritically what customers say about solutions. And I never believe what developers say about customer problems. Especially when that developer is me.
I mean, it's seems so obvious, right? Don't spend lots of time building something unless you're pretty sure there's a market. You can't be "pretty sure there's a marked" unless you actually check. Engineers & programmers are often quite analytical people. Still we somehow miss this obvious conclusion.
I know it, but it's still hard to do it.
I'd rather claim that for me the reason is that talking takes a lot of time for both sides that could more productively used for programming.
One problem, of course, is that advertising and marketing people, being what they are, will almost always tell you they are trying to serve the customer. (And they generally believe it.) To tell the good from the bad, you will have to use your own moral compass.
The bigger one, though, is that it's an arms race. In a perfect world, nobody would push anything. You could just release your new product; those hungry for a solution would find it and become your customers. Sadly, those people right now are being aggressively manipulated by your competitors. They will never hear about your product. If you want to succeed, you will have to get your hands dirty with actual marketing.
Personally, I bridge the gap by asking myself three things:
1. Are we legitimately creating value for our customers? Would they be better off using our product?
2. Is our approach to marketing reasonably ethical, and at least no worse than the competition?
3. In the long term, are we acting in ways that will reduce the arms race, or at least make it no worse?
Knowing what people will enjoy is part of marketing. "Marketing" is commonly thought of as "advertising", but the full meaning includes choosing what to build - what do people need? What will help them?
Now, a favoured open source technique for doing this is to scratch your own itch... the thinking is that if it annoys you, it probably annoys lots of other people. A kind of marketing that requires a lot of faith! But is sometimes very effective.
We can go a step further, and ask now that we have solved this problem, it's not doing much good if the people who need it don't have it! How will they find out about it? This is getting pretty close to advertising... but the least-scummy way to do it is rely on word-of-mouth. This is actually how people find out about stuff in general. You can assist this process by just articulating just what it is you have, and what problem it solves, in a pithy, easy-to-remember, easy-to-pass-on phrase. You might have a little story (or joke) that helps carry it along. But the non-scummy part about this is that people problem won't pass it on if they don't think it's any good. They aren't getting paid to shill.
One interesting advertising approach is Dropbox's referral program (where you get extra storage by introducing someone to a free Dropbox account). It's hard to see this as scummy, but it's extremely effective "advertising". Even having a free version in the first place is an aspect of marketing.
Finally, consider the problems of a charity, whose only goal is to help people. What help is needed? How to get it to the people who need it? That is "marketing". And pg argues for it as a model for a startup: http://paulgraham.com/good.html
The marketing that I commonly notice is the kind born out of much research on manipulating the thoughts, desires and behaviors of people. It's easy to find examples of this everywhere and is used by most large corporations to achieve what you describe. When thinking about the companies I respect, like Airbnb and Parse, I think of their marketing as more going out and engaging and informing their customer. Should there be a distinction between the two kinds of marketing?
The chestnut for a while has been that marketing consists of 4 p's:
price (how much? how many market offerings? should price go up over time [discounts for early adopters] or down over time [getting rid of excess inventory]?),
product (does anyone want this? are we building a rocketship when they need a bicycle, or vice versa? Are we following existent demand, or creating a new market [iPhone]?),
promotion (this is what 99% of people think about when they think of marketing, but it's important to note there are good things here too. Spammers live here, but so does Apple's 1984 ad), and
place (Do we even want to sell this in Alaska, given that it costs a buttload to ship our product up there? Do the Chinese have an ancestral taboo about our product? Is it so fragile that it's hard to ship reliably, and if so, how do we deal with that?).
The full discipline of marketing actually involves some pretty darn cool stuff, that I guarantee would appeal to your developer mind. One that I'm partial to are shape grammars (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shape_grammar), where brands try to figure out what about a design (of say Apple, or a Harley Davidson) screams "$BRAND" to a customer.
Marketing is just finding a way to communicate your value proposition to your target market. Yes, there are plenty of scummy ways out there -- but some awesome real-world examples come from our favorite tech startups like 37signals (e.g. their books) and Atlassian (e.g. their git tutorials).
That's the great thing about the inbound/content marketing movement these days -- you are typically not paying people to read it, so you first and have to step back and think, "what can I write about that would grab the genuine interest of people I want to reach?"
Just some thoughts from a product marketing manager at a startup in NYC.
Then I started reading, realized it was about developers marketing. I have never really considered marketing my strong suit so I continued reading.
When he started talking about his book, I felt as though I had been tricked, and I got a little mad. To me, it cheapened the article, and made me feel as if the author didn't really care about informing people, but rather was just looking to promote his book. At that instant I knew he had posted this link on Hacker News not to be informative, but to prey on developers with weak marketing skills, and get them to pay for his book. I normally wouldn't comment on something like this, but since you said so anyway, I would say this is an unethical advertisement because it pretends to be an article, but it actually was an advertisement. If he had said right out, "I have written a book on marketing for developers, here is a sample, and if you are interested you can purchase it here", then I might have been more inclined to purchase it (of course the book isn't even finished yet, so there would be no way to buy it anyway even if I was interested, but that's a separate issue I won't get into here.) Rather, instead the article left a bad taste in my mouth and reinforced my opinion of marketing as something scummy I wouldn't want to get involved with.
OK, the fact that you would use a term like "prey on" in this context tells me that we probably have radically different worldviews, so there may be no point to this exchange, but...
I would say this is an unethical advertisement because it pretends to be an article, but it actually was an advertisement
There's no particular reason a piece of content can't be intended to be both legitimately informative, AND serve to drive awareness of something your selling. In this case, ask yourself this: If you took away the last paragraph or two of the article, would the rest of it still have been informative? Would you have gotten value from it? If so, how is it not an informative article, just because of the blurb tacked onto the end, sharing information about the author's book? Especially when the book is relevant to the audience who would likely discover that article?
OK, I get that a lot of developers just have a sort of general aversion to "all things commercial". Hell, I used to be that way to some extent, but yet I always found marketing fascinating, and now that I run a startup, I find marketing essential, so maybe my views have shifted a bit. Anyway, I understand - to a point - that a lot of us find that commercial interests take away from some notion of essential "purity" or whatever when it comes to technical content. But to call this kind of content marketing "unethical" is a bit extreme, IMO.
And putting that stuff at the bottom has nothing to do with being tricky, or sneaky, or unethical. It just makes more sense to mention the book after the author has demonstrated some credibility through the content in the earlier part of the article.
It wouldn't have been too much trouble to bring those skeptics back to the conversation by adding a short disclaimer closer to the beginning of the article. So why not do it? If the article is going to be both informative and promotional, some will want that expectation to be set right from the beginning. And if the informative bits can stand on their own merit, there's no risk to the promotional side in adding the early disclaimer. (IMO, it's not an unreasonable request, and not without precedent.)
But I get your point. This wasn't a scummy piece of marketing and I found it through a very neutral channel.
I appreciate your perspective. Which CTA, specifically did you find awkward?
(As a side-note: I've had other posts with similar traffic and same landing URL. This one outperformed them by quite a bit. The launch list itself grew 2x)
I did enjoy your article and have given you my email in hopes that I gain some valuable insight. I have always been very skeptical about sales and marketing but have tried to be open to its value. My wife has a more neutral view and can sometimes soften my stance on it.
The software is so good, he just has to make one post on a forum and people are queuing up to throw money at him. All he has to do is sit there and answer questions.
A sample quote from a user: "Bought it without demoing, Due to Sean's great support/dedication."
Note the length of the thread. Also have a look at the diagram on the last page. There is a lot people here could learn from smalltime audio software/hardware developers, who are quietly running scores of successful "lifestyle" businesses, away from the bright lights of the SAAS industry.
Here's another example of a product announcement thread on that forum from a popular indie developer: http://www.gearslutz.com/board/product-alerts-older-than-2-m...
But yeah, if you're looking for an example of good marketing from a big company, good luck I guess.
1. Create a short article repeating common sense that everyone should know.
2. JOIN MY MAILING LIST!
If you think that, you probably don't understand what "marketing" actually is. Marketing is really just everything you do to communicate with your customers, to find out what they need, and communicate to them that you have a solution for them. There's nothing inherently "scummy" about marketing.
Let's say you talk to your barber about scheduling software. That's marketing. Let's say you write some scheduling software and put it up on GitHub. That's marketing. Let's say you go further and post a "Show HN: My Rad New Barbershop Scheduling Package". That's marketing.
Or maybe you go to the National Barber's Association Annual Convention and rent space for a both, and setup a PC (or iPad or whatever) to demo software, and as people walk by you talk to them about their problems and your solution. Again, that's marketing. Or maybe you buy some Google Adwords for your software. Marketing.
Let's say your thing really blows up and you're making money hand over fist and you buy an ad during next year's Super Bowl. That's marketing. Now maybe you find sales are dropping off, and you don't know why, so you create a SurveyMonkey survey asking about Barbershop issues, and email it to all of your existing customers. That's marketing. But maybe that doesn't generate enough responses, so you Tweet the link along with hashtag #barbershops and buy a couple of Facebook ads, and maybe share the link on LinkedIn. That's all marketing.
Running a few focus groups to solicit customer feedback? Marketing. Replying to blog posts related to your topic? Marketing. Blogging about your topic? Marketing.
There's just so much to marketing, and nothing about any of it requires unethical behavior or typical "used car salesman" stuff.
"Marketing" is also strategy... segmenting your market for example, by, say, geography and demographics: deciding "We're only targeting barbershops in the Southeast USA, in cities with at least 40,000 people". And that decision was probably based on market research, which is also part of marketing.
I agree, marketing doesn't require unethical behavior. But marketing in an unethical way is required for many (most?) large business to grow.
But it's not just super-huge companies. Listen to conservative talk radio and it's not long before you hear local ads using fear mongering, anger inciting, self loathing or inadequacy inducing marketing to sell whatever version of local or small time (when compared to super-huge conglomerates) snake oil they have.
Is this advertising? Is advertising separate from sales and marketing and is where most of the evil is introduced? If so it still doesn't give Yum! and the financial industry a pass for what they sell and how they sell it.
Ultimately, if I were to be helpful to others, I would ask them what they want and figure out a way to help them (sales & marketing if you will). For how can I truly build useful products, when I don't actually talk to the people that use them?
Even if you want to give fruits of your labour for free for others to enjoy, you need to market them, because there is a stack of software already doing the same thing for the same cost.
On the other hand, if you have a product you believe in, that is high-quality, and that improves the lives of the customers who could really use it, he felt it was morally wrong NOT to sell it to them.
That is to say that marketing happens naturally when someone places a classified ad or discusses their project with friends and strangers casually.
Taking out a series of ads saying a new product launched and describing its features is surely ethical. Taking out ads lying about the qualities of your product (or omitting important side effects) is unethical. Quietly hiring journalists to write "stories" on you product and its features is likewise dishonest.
so I'd say ethical marketing is honest and forthright. Being considerate about intrusions doesn't hurt either, though being annoying isn't always the same as being unethical.
Then again, I'm not a marketing guy, so maybe I'm missing something.
> "Being considerate about intrusions doesn't hurt either, though being annoying isn't always the same as being unethical."
I'd also say that anytime you put out any type of communication out into the world, you're going to have some people who don't like it.
The key is to reach people where they're at, and try to be helpful. Being tactful (and culturally relevant / appropriate) is important - but it can also lead to paralysis. If you're too concerned about how you're going to be received, you'll never put anything out there (or you'll water it down so it's boring).
If you cannot understand it as it is already, you'll only understand it when you stop being merely a paid developer and become a developer that needs to sell the software he writes.
"If you build it they will come" does not hold. The best product can fail (and often has) because people have not known about it, or it was not presented to them in an appropriate way. That's what marketing does.
What do you do to get paid?
Smiling people is one of them. If your marketing site has pictures of smiling people on it, I am immediately turned off. Look at the billboard on your local subway system. Ads for dentists, graduate degrees, Trident gum, upcoming plays. 9 out of 10 of them have a stock photo of a smiling person, presumably unable to contain their enjoyment of $PRODUCT.
In very rare cases, say, for a Meetup group, or a bike tour, will I see pictures of smiling people that are actually organic. That's fine. It's when they use stock photos that it insults my intelligence and makes me feel like "marketers lying to take my money". The photos aren't even of people paid to pretend to enjoy the product, they're just sub-licensed from Getty. What it tells me is they're more concerned with sales driven by emotion than making a substantive first impression.
To test this, I just thought of the most boring thing I could think of: enterprise resource planning. The first marketing result on Google is this, complete with smiling person:
The best salespeople in the world make you walk away thinking you got a great deal, that you got the upper hand. When I see these blatant plays for emotion, I walk away disgusted.
Correct a Self-Sabotaging Mindset
Marketing is bullshit. Marketing is evil. Marketing is everything that’s wrong
with this world. Marketing is the root of all evil. Marketers should be shot.
I have heard all these statements—and plenty more like them.
If you agree with any of them, you are not alone in your dislike of marketing.
I’ve found that technical people, particularly programmers, tend to have a
strong hatred for marketing.
Antimarketing stances stem partly from bad experiences with manipulative
marketers and partly from a misunderstanding of what marketing actually
Wikipedia defines marketing in this way:
"Marketing is the process used to determine what products or services may be of interest to customers and what strategy to use in sales, communications, and business development."
At its core, marketing is about connecting people to solutions. For example,
some people may have an interest in buying an environmentally friendly car.
Good marketing involves identifying this segment of the population, then
devising a strategy to let that portion of the population know about the existence
of your brand-new hybrid car and its benefits (in a style and manner
that will appeal to them).
Though the ultimate goal is to sell a car, marketing isn’t about convincing
people who are not interested in your product to buy it. It’s about exposing
the right product to the right audience. Done correctly and in an ethical
manner, it’s possible to promote without deceiving, manipulating, or forcing
people to spend their hard-earned money on goods they don’t want or need.
It’s important to understand that marketing is so much more than just
advertising. Marketing encompasses countless aspects of your product,
including what you name it before it even exists.
If you still feel that marketing is mostly evil, I encourage you to reflect on the
forms of marketing you already do, perhaps without even realizing that they’re
marketing. Ever applied for a new job? Or dated someone? While you probably
didn’t misrepresent yourself with your future employer or partner by blatantly
lying, you still wore nice clothes and tried to showcase your favorable traits.
In doing so you were marketing yourself.
In blogging, the aim of your marketing is to reach as many people who are
potentially interested in your content as possible. As we’ll see in future
chapters, you may also have related additional goals, such as promoting
yourself professionally, marketing yours and other people’s products, and so
Like all tools, marketing can be used for good or in unethical, obnoxious ways.
In this book, I advocate only white-hat marketing techniques that will get
your content in front of the people who need to see it. So if you are the
stereotypical antimarketing developer, please approach the rest of the chapter
with an open mind. I promise that you won’t have to sell your soul.
real gifts are given unconditionally, with no expectation of anything in return. if you can simply give advice with no marketing, plugging, or bullshit, it shows your intentions are pure. you expect nothing and simply want to better someone else's life. when you market to me, i have to assume that you are using me to make money.
people have to eat out here, but there is an appropriate time and place for marketing your services and products. when you blur the line between who you are as a businessman and who you are as a person, you are severely tarnishing your character imo. (not that the comment was even that bad, but i'm talking about marketing in general)
There's nothing wrong with charging for goods and services. If someone needs something, and I provide it, it's totally ethical to get some money for that. It's still 100% possible to use good judgement and "simply want to better someone else's life" without throwing your morals to the wind.
People can make businesses out of things they are really passionate about, and things that other people really need. It's not necessary to have any line between "you" and "businessperson you". If you want to be a good businessperson, you must first be a good human being.
If the comment was helpful, as you say it was, then who gives a shit?
Sometimes it is hard to know what you want and marketing can help you figure it out.
This is true to a point, but if your strongest suite is your raw technical ability then it may be best for you to pursue problems that have remained unsolved because of technical challenges that have put others off. A significant technical barrier is also nice to have if it means you can get the market before your competition catches up.
Even a mediocre implementation of something "impossible" can make a lot of impact. See bitcoin.
Bitcoin was perhaps the worst possible example you could have chosen... The implementation was the opposite of mediocre; its code predicted and solved implementation problems that no one realized were problems, except Satoshi. And on a technical level, the client has only experienced one problem that had to be rolled back. There are few other implementations of anything that have that kind of track record.
A better example of a mediocre implementation of something would be the original Quake engine. Ha, got you, just kidding. Actually, I can't think of anything that's made "a lot of impact" while also being both a mediocre implementation and very difficult on a technical level. Even Minecraft wasn't mediocre. Difficulty and mediocrity seem to be opposites, the way magnetic poles are.
It does open the door wide for someone to build a "bitcoin for grandma" but that will probably involve a somewhat different skillset to that of Satoshi.
I think the mistake many people make is that they treat marketing as a problem divorced from technical development. They should really be the two sides of the same coin. It is wimpy and inexcusable for entrepreneurs to say "I'm good at one and not the other".
You, the developer, are not a normal user, by definition (unless you're building tools for fellow developers). Anything user-facing should be tested on real users, on members of the target audience. What they find convenient and useful may seem inconvenient and useless to you. This is OK; such a view is usually reciprocal.
BTW this is often a point of contention in open-source software. It is built mostly by engineers. If the target audience does not also consist of engineers, users may find the UI confusing and inconvenient, despite authors' best effort to make it clear and convenient for themselves.
I especially like:
The problem is that all of this is focused on us, the creator, and not on the customer, the consumer.
If we're actually going to sell products, we need to quit thinking about what's cool to us, and focus on what customers actually need.
I've talked about this here so many times, I don't have much more to add. I'd just direct you to #195 and Chapter 10 here: http://static.v25media.com/edw519_mod.html
Justin, this is important work and I look forward to it. Let me know how I can help (email in profile). I wish you great success. This community could really use it.
We're still feeling out getting this convenience into user's hands. Keyboarded platforms suck for drawing/using standing up, tablets suck for typing.
Ultimately, the only thing I could offer this barber is a cloud-synced whiteboard with week-planner drawn in-behind the screen, and the only advantage it would have over paper is cloud syncing.
Sometimes I wish nerds would think a little more about what computers shouldn't be used for instead of trying to figure out how they can fix everything with software.
It looks like his pain point was that he was walking to a computer. Perhaps having a tablet by his phone could fix this problem? It could be as easy as the paper calendar solution, but since it's all being done electronically, you could allow people to schedule appointments online and such.
But why is the default assumption that the barber needs software, and we must prove out that he doesn't? The barber just wants to note some info and get on with things.
With that said, given that the barber in question has tried 10 different scheduling packages, it would seem that he is looking for something better than paper. That says to me that something is needed in his business, and that may very well be software, though the platform on which to run that software is probably not a PC with standard peripherals.
Or for that matter why not some kind of automated voice recognition system that extracts the customers schedule date directly from the phone call?
You would also get backup (!) and automation. Say for example that you had to cancel all appointments next week, software could do that for you.
Agree with your overall sentiment though, paper has many advantages.
Me and my friends used to go to a cafeteria every day. Every day we needed to reach for change money, etc. We suggested the cashier to create a "pre-paid" account for every person so we could pay once a month, in advance, with credit card. He/she could not do it because "the system does not implement this".
In another epoch, I went every day to the same restaurant, at the fourth day the cashier offered to open an account to me. She opened a big notebook and put my name in a page, case solved. (She even offered post-paid bit I took pre-paid because I detest owing money.)
Many a growing company has found itself forced to change its business processes to align with the SAP way of doing things, instead of the other way around.
At the top end of the scale, companies are large enough to write custom software. At the bottom end of the scale, you can't yet justify buying software, so a lot of processes are still done manually.
It's in the middle that you tend to get squeezed. You're too big to do things on paper, but you don't have the in-house development talent to customize the software to fit your needs.
In a marketing class long ago the professor asked what % of the US beer industry was imported. The answers were all over the place, with most answers between 30 and 50%. She responded with, "It's less than 10%, and this is why you have to look at the #s rather than intuition even if you're a consumer of the product yourself."
Technical complexity and fancy features aren't what helps crack the bottom of the market, which is the heart of disruptive innovation. "Because it's cool and I like it" may have worked for Steve Jobs, but he's the exception and not the rule.
You'd just have to take a look at what brands sell the most in the US to get an approximate answer. I'm not American so I can say for certain, but except for the yuppie preference for microbrews, most Americans stick to domestic light beers — Budweiser, Coors, Miller.
Per the essay, I'm not normal and most people don't really know the companies that make the products they consume, but estimating 50% of the US beer industry to be imported is something fairly inadequate for someone in college taking a marketing class.
Maybe the german-sounding Budweiser/Anheuser-Busch threw them off, but I'd guess most college students either drink (legally or not) or see people drinking, and could make a better estimate.
The general point of overconfidence is very true.
I don't get that one. One could argue Apple does exactly the opposite of that. Technical complexity is usually hidden and there are less fancy features than competitor's products. Compare the first iPod vs. any MP3 on the market at the time.
What is efficient for them as a business is highly inefficient for me as a consumer, and I may end up taking my business elsewhere because of it. I like the guy and he does a good job, but there are other places to go. If any of them make it easier on me to schedule on my terms, I'll go there.
So... yes, it might be easier for the barber to just look at a piece of paper on the wall, does it increase his business? Is he looking for more business, or an easier job?
If you're relying on an online system too it has to be absolutely solid - which means expense. Or at least more expense than a wall-calendar or a paper diary [book].
It's hard to have an over-view of, say, the next couple of months work with an online system - a big wall-calendar makes things easier to visualise. Of course you could have a massive touch-screen computer ...
If you're running a salon, with multiple barbers then I can see it being cost-effective to try and have customers self-schedule but it seems for a single barber that they'd have to be very up-market to make it worth while.
Would you go to a worse barber so you can schedule online instead of by phone? Would you pay more, how much, to be able to schedule online?
Personally if I use a barber's it's a simple drop-in service.
[Any suggestions for an appointments booking system to check out?]
I don't doubt that you're right, but it should be much easier with a computer:
- It can "think" for itself. For example you could ask it for all available 1 hour slots on a Tuesday or Friday in the next two months, that are also after 3' O clock, and.. and..
- Regarding overview, you should be able to zoom in and out. Think google maps vs. normal maps.
Better yet, upload your google calendar an let it suggest a few appropriate time. Click the one you want. Done.
Edit: does that last one exist? Would be a cool thing to make.. (but then again, does anyone actually want that? :)
The "upload your calendar" might work well but people won't want to give up their data so I'm thinking a client side component could transmute all a person's calendar entries to remove the details then upload and do a match with the store.
Glancing across is always going to work better than zooming IMO.
Some of the premium places will be booked out three months in advance, but then make mention of potential cancellations on their web site contact page. e.g., "Sometimes we get cancellations. Please call us just in case." Seems to be like that would make for a huge amount of wasted staff time dealing with those sorts of queries.
Wouldn't the point of scheduling software be that, unlike his current phone solution, he doesn't have to do something when a customer schedules a time? Ideally he'd enter his work hours and holidays into the scheduling system, and customers could schedule a time without interrupting his workflow. Then he'd only need to look at his iPad once in a while to see who the next customer is.
Other than that, I think the article makes an important point.
What OP could have told the barber is this: "We'll put up a system that enables your customers to schedule a time automatically - that way you'll only have to schedule times manually in the 20% of cases or so when a customer prefers to call rather than use the website".
It's not rocket science - plenty of barbers have such a system.
If voice is crucial, save yourself answering the phone with some sort of Twilio setup to handle the majority of calls with a series of questions about timing and duration of appointment. In the preamble mention online bookings and see if the majority stick with phone.
I know I'd vastly prefer a web booking system for almost everything - restaurants, car service, medical appointments, etc.
I'm really interested in this. Could you link some?
I've never thought this way when I learn about some new technology...my way of thinking has always been "This task I'm doing really sucks, how can I make it easier?" This way of thinking seems so much more intuitive and less mentally taxing. Do others here really think the way the author describes? I'm curious.
What I do object to is this zero-sum attitude, that it's either "do cool technical stuff" or "MAKE MONEY", and wanting the latter implies a direct reduction of the former. To one extent, that's true...because our time is finite. But on the other hand "MAKE MONEY" gets in the way of technological innovations that could leap frog the market?
Why not think of technical innovation/investment as a loss leader? In the same way that it'd be questionable for a gas station to say, "fuck selling gas, let's just focus on selling coffee! (http://www.nbcnews.com/id/23904590/), realize that tech innovation can be the underlying reason for profit, even if it doesn't have a direct contribution on the balance sheet
But if you work as a salaried employee or contractor - lets face it - you really in a position to care more about your personal income and care less about customers who will be buying the product you don't directly benefit from.
You better realize that you can and will be let go on a minute's notice and no one is going to drop a tear that you're no longer there.
And hence your survival depends on convincing the management to build the product using technologies that you can benefit from by knowing them, just in case you decided to quit or will be let go.
Even though above may sounds selfish - this does not mean your personal interests are not aligned with the company you're working for.
Quite often the opposite - and quite often it's win win for everyone.
Of course the barber doesn't think he needs anything beyond a better paper calendar, but what do his customers think? Would they, perhaps, prefer to book online instead of over the phone?
I guess that what I'm trying to say is that you should definitely listen to your customers, but you shouldn't let that blind you. It's like that Henry Ford quote: "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." The problem, of course, is that very few people are Henry Ford material ;)
Chances are a product will succeed or fail for reasons neither the designers nor the customers understand. Consider the personal computer -- the best minds in technology were offered a chance to get in at the start, and nearly all of them turned it down. Hewlett-Packard repeatedly rejected Steve Wozniak's proposals until he quit and developed his ideas with Steve Jobs in a garage. Then IBM created a rather limited knockoff PC, expecting it to serve only as an "entry system" to their main product line, which was large systems. Pretty soon the tail wagged the dog.
And the Internet -- no one saw it coming, even when it was on top of them. No one was able to predict any aspect of that phenomenon, something that remains true.
About people's tastes and choices in entertainment, Hollywood screenwriter William Goldman famously said, "Nobody knows anything". I agree, and I think it applies to technology as well.
The bottom line -- if you ask customers what they want, what they might buy, they won't be able to tell you. I disagreed with Steve Jobs about practically everything, but he was dead right about this.
Patiently visualised, devised imagined scenarios. Phone rings, barber says "excuse me" to his client and walks over to the phone. But does he put the comb down first? Perhaps. Barbers have trays handy, but they might walk around, tools in hand. (This is obvious, and doesn't take research to imagine.)
The phone needs to be next to the computer - no screen savers, the scheduling software always on, with clear and large fonts, minimal clutter (generally good interface design anyway). Think "high quality app design", not "looks like Excel".
A beautifully designed interface that would impress the barber if demonstrated. Custom default views and all that.
It's ok to start from the blue sky and work down to the reality instead of working up from "what the barber likes with his paper calendars". Which isn't the wrong way, but could skew the potential. Top down isn't wrong, if you've done your visualising!
Not that research and getting out into the world isn't valuable. (obvious). I'd probably take a look at the book anyway... sounds ok.
The irony is that when I build a product that I'm told that "normal" people/programmers will want, it usually fails. When I build a product that I would use myself, with weird features I'm told nobody wants, it does well.
Quality drives a portion of sales. Technical ability to perform, create features, respond to customer needs, and maintain a service contributes highly to quality. The technology and tools and process chosen enable that technical ability to a large degree.
Therefore, some portion of your sales is driven by your technology.
It's useful and important to think at a high level about your customers directly, at times. This is your UX role, doing user research and understanding all the intricate details and desires of your users. It's also marketing, understanding the market and who the target consumers are.
It's also useful and important to ensure you get your process and systems right to meet that market head-on with the ability to solve the problem that you now understand. Ideally these are several roles communicating seamlessly. It's not always ideal, but that's the goal.
That's why we have product team and product manager to work out the requirements before the development team start to prototype and implement. For startup companies, this kind of process may seem too luxury in the early stage, we called it "discover" stage.
Once we define the target market and learn the customer needs, we will build the most compelling features first. We listen, but not tight to specific customer needs, because we know the direction we want to build, and gradually lead the customers toward that end product.
For any new product, customer friction is always there very naturally. That's why we need marketing and sales team to remove the friction. It's a lot easy to say than to do.
We just need to be constantly reminded that our perception and reasoning about the world is subjective and often conscious. As designers, or product builders, we should be willing to understand other people's reasoning, putting aside ours.
Want an example? One of the most beloved practices by the software industry is kanban boards. It's at least curious how people writing systems prefer to have a physical board rather than, well, a system.
With the title and point of the article being formulated in a way showing a lack of understanding of the matter, it is doubtful the rest of the post is any better.
Another programmer matures, having the same epiphany that every other decent programmer does at some point in his career.
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