Tag Archives: crowdsourcing

Ten essential UX factors to create products your customers will LOVE

easyThis week Apple launched the iPad 2, reminding us that creating a great User Experience (UX) is much more than providing a clean, simple User Interface (UI). Those of us who want to build products that are loved by our customers need to achieve a great UX across areas—not just one:

1. Easy authentication. People have far too many logins and passwords than they can possibly remember. Making them create and manage yet another identity is a hassle that can potentially turn-off over half of your customers. Aim to enable one-click login that re-uses an identity your customers already love (like the Facebook SocialGraph).

2. Clean, simple UI for mainstream users. It is so incredibly easy to fall into the trap of overloading a UI with some many features, making your product non-intuitive the 80% people who constitute your mainstream customers. If you need to provide instructions for basic use, you have made you product too complicated. Strive for simplicity, like Twitter does.

3. Configurable UI for advanced users. Over time, 10-20% of your customers will be your core, “power users.” To keep them happy, you need to provide them the ability to create shortcuts and customizations that let them use your product more effectively. The key is focusing on making their experience more efficient—not more cluttered. Facebook does a good job of this for consumers; Salesforce for business users.

4. Open APIs for partners. Many are afraid to open their product (and data) up to others. In a “Web 2.0 World” this can be a fatal mistake. Build your product to make it easy for others to build create applications on top of your product. This social production taps the creativity and work of others to make your product more useful and valuable to your customers. Look at what this provided Facebook, Twitter, and Salesforce.

5. Easy installation of partner apps. You need to architect your product from Day One to let make it simple for people outside your organization install and integrate applications that work with your product. When you achieve this, your customers see your product as an easy platform to add whatever the need. Contrast how Apple does this vs. RIM and WordPress vs. all other blogging tool to understand this UX firsthand.

6. Device compatibility. If you are building applications for tablets or mobile, endeavor to be platform agnostic. This gives your customers the freedom to chose the device that best fits their need—a great UX—vs. denying them choice. Take a look at the explosion of Android to understand how much people love this.

7. Built-in reporting. (Mostly applicable for business apps). The worst thing you can do to customers is providing them a product without the tools to enable measure and understand what it is doing for them. Build in intuitive reporting from the start. Make it easy for customers to export data for their own use. Be a source of insight—not obfuscation.

8. Non-technical customization. (Another item mostly for business applications). Everyone has unique ways of working. Forcing your customers to conform to ways of working your engineers cooked up in isolation is not a good UX (nor is forcing them to spend obscene amounts of money on customization). Make it easy for non-technical people to adapt your product to how they work. Hint: look again at Saleforce to see how to do this well.

9. Painless upgrade. Technology is an innovative business. If you want to keep your customers, you need to provide them regular improvements and innovation. Making this painful, costly and intrusive will guarantee you loose customers to someone who makes it easy. Making it easy makes you a constant source of improved UX. WordPress does this incredibly well—for individuals and business alike.

10. Transparent pricing. This is one people tend to forget. You can make the easiest-to-use product unappealing if you make the purchase process complicated. Too many software pricing models can make buying software akin to buying a new car. Transparent pricing—based on what your customer value (not your costs)—provides a great experience. Pardot does this really well.

An interesting exercise to try for yourself

Look at the products you provide (and the ones you use). How many of them achieve all ten of these? How many even half? Which of those do you enjoy using the most?

Seven must-have attributes for collaboration tech

Over the past 20 years, “collaboration” has been used to categorise a wide variety of products: instant messaging, email, chat, calendaring, document management, content management, learning management, publishing, discovery, crowdsourcing, and many others.

Even with a range of products this broad, I have repeatedly found seven attributes that separate winning collaboration products (i.e., products people choose – or even demand – to use) from also-rans:

1. Intuitive: Pass the “no instructions needed” test

To foster collaboration a product needs to be truly intuitive. The best way to measure this is with the “no instructions needed” test: if you can put the product in front of any intended user (i.e., your target market) and they can understand enough to explore and use it on your own, you have passed. If not, you have failed: over time people will say your product is too hard to use (and will use it only when forced to do so).

2. Easy: Complete key activities in three clicks or fewer

Collaboration and convenience go “hand in hand.” If your product takes too much effort to use, people will not use it to collaborate. Based on lots of user feedback the hurdle for convenience is three clicks. If something takes more than three clicks to do, it is too complicated. If you can get to what you need in three clicks or less, you have a winner. If your product cannot, one of your competitors will find a way to do and take your market.

3. Convenient: Eliminate work; do not add to it

This is one I am seeing many people forget lately. To make work easier, and drive organic demand, your product needs to eliminate work. It needs to align with the work activities people do as part of their everyday job and remove time, activities and/or systems. If it just “adds another system people have to use (and cut-and-paste from)” it is adding work and will (at best) be a passing fad that will fall out of use.

4. Fast: Pass the “Two x 95-p” test

One of the things that the Internet and broadband have done is raise expectations for speed and response. Watch a person click a button (a browser, a smart phone, a TV electronic programming guide, etc): if response does not take less than two seconds (95% of the time or more), the product will be considered slow and exasperating. This is even truer for enterprise systems that people are required to use to perform their job. You need to be fast—and consistently fast.

5. Ubiquitous: Operate everywhere and anywhere

The whole reason to use a collaboration product is to let people who are not sitting right next to each other collaborate with ease. This means your product must work everywhere and anywhere—passing both the “no instructions needed” and “two by 95p” tests. This is not a trivial demand. However, it is essential. If you do not believe me go to one your international offices or mobile team members and try to collaborate using main office-oriented products.

6. Timely: Collaborate from the same data, at the same point in time

There is an old joke about asking six blindfolded people to touch different parts of an elephant and tell you what it is: one thinks it is a tree trunk, one a fire hose, etc. The same is true for collaboration products: if you are working from out-of-date data you are wasting your time. (If you don’t believe me, think about the last time you responded to an email in a chain only to find out minutes later that your response was out-of-date or irrelevant). Winning collaboration products let everyone work from the same data, at the same point in time.

7. Trusted: Provide utility-class reliability

Collaboration occurs all the time (often at unpredictable times). Collaboration is not “down for maintenance.” If people cannot count on a collaboration product to be there, they will not use it (because they cannot trust it). They will find other tools: saving documents to local disk, writing things down on paper to enter them later, sending them via email, etc. Winning collaboration products are “always-on.” Always-on does not equal 99% reliability; it requires 99.99% reliability or more (Would you use your credit card in public if it failed one percent of the time?)

Why did I pick seven attributes (and not ten)? Ten would be artificial. These truly are the attributes I have seen over and over trip up otherwise good collaboration products and set the winners apart from others (regardless of market or industry).