Here’s a quote from a Steve Jobs interview from 1995:
Many companies get the disease of thinking that a really great idea is 90 percent of the work. And if you just tell all these other people here’s this great idea then of course they can go off and make it happen. And the problem with that is that there’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product. Designing a product is keeping five thousand things in your brain and fitting them all together in new and different ways to get what you want.And every day you discover something new that is a new problem or a new opportunity to fit these things together a little differently.
At BetterAt, we’re lucky that every day brings a new learning about a problem or an opportunity to fit these things together differently. It’s been a fun journey that’s starting to get a lot more interesting.
We all (should) know by now using Apple’s examples that it’s all about sweating the details and getting everything. just. right.
This blog post and lesson by Aaron Swartz is a great reminder that details that impede your user tend to overshadow details that delight your user. I think he hit the nail on the head — speaking from personal experience as both a Kindle and an iPad owner.
Bezos must have spent tons of energy getting this stuff right. And he must be sitting there, pissed, that Steve Jobs gets all these laurels while no one ever recognizes the stuff he’s done. But I don’t think that’s because Jobs is a better marketer and showman than Bezos (that’s the easy way out); it’s because the small details that delight get buried under small details that annoy.
That’s the thing about delightful details: they’re not just another thing you can add on top. Unless you sweat the details all the way through the user experience, the ones that delight quickly get drowned out by the ones that constantly annoy. I hope someone at Amazon will take that to heart.
This article Aged to Perfection reminded me about the notion of “beausage” in physical goods. Beausage is shorthand and refers to “Beauty through usage”. I was reminded by the author of the article that most products live in the “raw/worn” state for a majority of the time they’re in use — This is a very practical reason for products to be designed for “worn” use. I’d be very surprised if beausage wasn’t a factor that went into the creation of the first iphone, judging from that picture.
Products that show their wear well and feel used and “lived in” are familiar and comfortable, like an old pair of jeans. I haven’t seen marvelous examples of this in the digital world. Pixels don’t exactly erode, so I understand that there’s no explicit need to think about creating products that wear “well”.
But what if it were an active decision to instate this kind of “wear” the longer someone used a product? I believe that brands and internet experiences have yet to take advantage of the notion of “beausage”.
So many experiences nowadays seem to try to induce usage by introducing “badges” and viral gimmicks. That sucks. No one likes gimmicks. People fall for them initially, but it’s ephemeral and relies on an endless fountain of more gimmicks and badges and crap to get you to use their product.
My vision for internet products is that they actually provide mucho utility out of the gate and the longevity of use of a product conveys social currency. Going to a spot on the “MY” page (could be a profile, for instance) of your site should feel like the digital equivalent of “beausage” and you should be able to easily convey how much utility you derived from the platform based on how “worn” it feels.
While the jury is still out on how successful Pandora will ultimately be (apparently there is a bet between Mike Arrington/Robert Scoble and Steve Gillmor on this very question), one thing is clear to me, Tim Westergren is the poster child for startup persistence. He has grown his company. He has shrunk his company. He has grown his company again. And through it all he has been an energetic evangelist, pounding on doors, living in airports, and doing whatever it takes to keep his company alive. I wish him the best of luck and hope that Pandora is a huge success. Entrepreneurs with the drive and determination of Tim deserve to succeed.
Now back to Pandora. I also listen to Grooveshark, but this is mostly when I have a particular set of songs that I just want to listen to. (This is pretty common actually, I have a work playlist that’s pretty cheesy and used solely to pump me up. Think Eye of the Tiger kinda stuff.)
I tried Blip.FM after Rich recommended it to me, but I just can’t get into it. There’s something weird about having to come up with a snarky comment and send it to the world in order to garner listeners and gain reputation that just plain rubs me the wrong way. Someday I’ll rant about the stupid unspoken follower/following ratio that people look at that remind me of elementary school pissing contests.
Anyway: Generally speaking I leave a tab of Pandora open and I’m off using some desk reference or doing something else in another tab. Sometimes, I like a song, and I come back to see what it is. And then what do I see? A tiny little tile…. Often I can’t read the whole artists name or the song title. And then if I click on it, it opens up in another window, taking me away from the experience of listening to the music. That’s like if I were listening to a song at a friend’s house, I asked him what song it was, and then he told me to go to some other record shop to buy it, instead of showing me the CD cover, and telling me more about it. Even worse, the irrelevant ads on Pandora are like the friend telling you about kosher pickles after you asked him about the music.. Weird, right?
Short digression. When I was in undergrad, I remember this company called AllAdvantage that made you look at ads on the desktop in order to get money. I modified some scripts to move a mouse and keyboard that allowed me to collect a check. Shhh, don’t tell anyone Many of you will probably remember this web1 debacle, but if not here are the highlights from wikipedia (literally):
AllAdvantage was launched on March 31, 1999, by Jim Jorgensen, Johannes Pohle, Carl Anderson, and Oliver Brock. During its nearly 2 years of operation, it raised nearly $200 Million in venture capital and grew to more than 10 million members in its first 18 months of operation.  The company’s practice of compensating existing members for referring new members led it to become one of the most heavily promoted websites of its time. That popularity was reflected in the ranking of AllAdvantage.com among the top 20 of many website traffic indices during most of the company’s existence, including Nielsen//NetRatings….
…AllAdvantage ultimately fell victim to the sharp decline in advertising spending as the dot-com bubble burst and the U.S. economy entered a recessionary period in mid-2000…
… The company continued to seek new sources of revenue and expanded its offerings to include sweepstakes. But the company finally halted consumer-facing operations in February 2001. By the time it closed its doors, the company had paid out over $160 million to its members.
So this analogy might be a little overboard but I’ll use it to be provocative and have some fun:
Some core truths exist here:
People come to Pandora for a love of music
Most sophisticated users know how to use multiple tabs. The adspace is mostly wasted unless the user is on the page. They’re essentially *not* on the page most of the time.
The use of a radio station to listen to at work is common. Usually, the person is actually performing work and can easily minimize the browser to listen to pandora in the background and have office open
I fundamentally agree with Fred Wilson at AVC about piracy/streaming and content: He said “We used to wonder if we could “untrain” a generation to steal. The answer is yes. Just make it easier to get the content they want and they’ll stop stealing.”
Pandora could make it a lot easier to connect with the music, purchase it, and do other stuff related to the artist (that I’ll get into later)
It’s in Pandora’s interest to retain a user and (seemingly) upgrade to a premium membership.
Tomorrow we’ll roll up our sleeves and do a UX (and tiny business model) makeover on Pandora. Boy, I hope Tim actually reads this after all this effort.