28 Nov 2010
Picture a customer looking to solve her particular business problem. Very occasionally, she might be looking to solve a problem in 5 minutes or less, and simply be willing to choose the first thing that sort of works that she runs across.
More likely though, she wants the best solution for her.
From experience, she knows that choosing the first half-assed solution isn’t going make for a long-term victory. Inevitably, it’s going to mean more hassle later on, because something won’t work, or there will be a migration cost, or the company will just be a pain to deal with.
When a customer is performing evaluation of specific solutions, they can’t possibly have complete information. They’re not going to have used all the software for extended periods. Reviews and recommendations are one method of pruning the search, but a review describes how well the product fits the reviewer, not how well it will fit another specific person.
Lacking complete information, a customer is looking for signalling that tells them that everything’s going to be OK if they go with you.
If you’re reading this, you’re clearly someone who cares about your business, your application, and your customers. You are hungry and eager. You are the polar opposite of the other half-assed company that out-sourced development, design, and UX. You are the opposite of the huge faceless corporation that can’t really be bothered with smaller customers, or solving their “trivial” problems.
That you care deeply is what you must demonstrate to your customers.
Of course, you’re exhausted already. You’re trying to launch here! You’re trying to cram all your launch features in, you’re scrambling to fix the blasted thing in IE. How are you going find time to actively demonstrate that you care while you’re too busy actually caring?
The practical solution to this problem is what I awkwardly call a “Slice of Caring”.
Instead of trying to show off that you care in every aspect across your whole business, you choose one particular slice to use as a demonstration of your commitment.
Of course, you do actually care about the entire business, but the effort involved in demonstrating this is huge, so pick something more manageable.
In particular, you probably want to pick something flashy because that’s where users will look first. Flashy depends on your application and problem domain. It might mean supporting the newest gadget, or it might mean integrating with Microsoft Outlook, or it might mean streamlining their Basecamp workflow, or it might be some other customization for a vertical-within-a-vertical-within-a-niche that a specific type of lawyer will love.
I don’t know what it will be for you, but you can definitely find something.
In my case, I was launching DropPic, an application for designers to create galleries of comps and mockups. A few designers had mentioned that their clients were iPad-obsessed, and would really like to review designs on the iPad.
So, I added a review mode, customized for the iPad. You can try it here if you’re on an iPad.
(On a WebKit-based desktop browser, you can add
?forcemob=1 to the preview page to see it. It doesn’t work properly, but you can get the general idea.)
My customers are thrilled because they know their clients will love it, and what they want is happy, paying clients.
This took me 4 hours, from deciding to do it, to figuring out that Sencha Touch was probably the fastest way to get it done, to implementation. It involved no changes to the backend, and is only about 200 lines of code. This is the sort of flashy feature you’re looking for.
It’s important that you not dig yourself a maintenance hole. Pick something that’s both a slice to show you care, and also a standalone column of functionality that isn’t going to break every time you change your application.
In my case, I’m using the same API for communication, so it’s strictly a different UI. If you were, for example, pulling contacts from Outlook, you’d want to make sure that the “slice” was tool that talked to Outlook, got data, and stuffed it through your regular contact-importing-procedure, whatever that might be. Don’t create exceptions and special cases for extra features, because that’ll definitely come back to haunt you.
This is of key importance.
Demonstrating that you care is difficult. Caring is one thing, but before they’ve used your great product, or experienced your outstanding customer support, prospective customers won’t really know if you care. They therefore won’t know whether they’re going to be happy with your product.
You must expend additional effort to show them that you care about the big picture, the little details, and everything in between.
Without the extra effort, they’re never going to experience the excellence you have to offer.
But you can find something that will only take you 4 hours, be suitable for signalling, and will improve your launch.