Tag Archives: Salesforce.com

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?

The risk of NOT innovating

We are at that time of the year when many of us are working on next year’s strategic plans. A question that often arises is, “What is the risk of [doing something new]?” What is asked less often is, “What is the risk of not doing something new or distinctive?”

‘Innovation = life’ when you court early adopters

In newly emerging markets—be they as high-tech as augmented reality or as low-tech as fashion—the answer is obvious. Innovation is occurring all around you; those who so not innovate enough will be left behind. The challenge here is to stay ahead of everyone else (instead of copying the innovation of others).

Examples:

  • Facebook out-innovated MySpace, Friendster, and everyone else
  • Can you name three competitors of Amazon from the late 90s?
  • FourSquare crushed Gowalla (and is standing up to Facebook)

Innovation allows you to ‘cross the chasm’

When you are entering the tornado, (i.e., when demand takes off and the top leaders are established), the speed of change requires innovation to shift from creation to speeding and scaling execution. You need to be able to out-market, out-deliver and out-support the competition. If not you will find yourself as Chimp (or worse).

Examples:

  • AOL out-ran all other ISPs—including a buy-or-break challenge by Microsoft
  • McDonalds’ innovations in franchising has enable it to serve billions
  • Ford’s Model T made cars affordable for the masses

Innovation keeps leaders on top

When you are the leader, everyone is aiming to displace you. Innovation in marketing and promotion will keep demand for your product fresh. Innovation in partnerships and distribution will create barriers to block you competition. The challenge is ensuring your teams know they have to keep innovating once they have reached the top.

Examples:

  • Intel is still the worlds largest chip maker (in a world with Moore’s Law)
  • GE is the only original Dow Jones stock still independently trading
  • Nike has been the top provider of sporting equipment for decades

Innovation is the only way to disrupt the leader

The familiarity and market share of leaders gives them enormous advantages in terms of cost of sales, speed of sale, distribution, etc. If you are smaller, you cannot disrupt a market leader by being playing “me-too” (unless the leader makes a big mistake). You need to “change the market” by meeting needs your customers did not realise they had or delivering in ways established “leaders” cannot match.

Examples:

  • Salesforce is worth nearly 3x what Siebel was when it sold to Oracle
  • RedBull has wings
  • President Obama’s campaign managers used social media, mobile, and CRM software to raise more money than more-established opponents

Innovation is the only way to ensure life in the future

Clayton Christensen has written volumes on need the foster disruptive innovation to ensure your remain a leader in the future (see my notes below). If you do not invent the future, someone else will—moving your market to a place where they lead (and you do not). If you want to avoid this, you have two option (ones that need not be mutually exclusive): 1) create incubation teams to innovate the future or 2) acquire proven innovators (this can be expensive).

Examples:

  • Apple continuously invents the “next big thing”
  • Amazon is selling more books on Kindle than in print
  • IBM went from typewriters to computers to services (and acquisition of many business information infrastructure innovators)

So what is the risk of not innovating?: your entire future

Notes: This post draws on two of my favorite books, “The Innovator’s Dilemma” and “Crossing the Chasm.” If you like this post, I encourage you to read “iPad’s Climb Up the Disruptive Innovation Cycle” by Hutch Carpenter and “Social Networking Sites, Market Segmentation and the Innovation Cycle” by Digvijay Singh.