What Makes A Technology Product Not Suck?
We are currently in the middle of a massive technology boom. People are throwing money at tech companies left and right. However, a lot of these companies are not actually delivering on their promises.
I have done a post on how to make a great business, but I think it is important to say that if you don’t have a great product you probably won’t get anywhere. Some people will disagree with me, but I think that the best way to build a product is to take your time and do it right. If you rush it just so you can release it faster, your users will notice, and they will stop using your product.
Don’t try to be everything to everyone
One of the biggest mistakes that new companies make is they try and make their products “universally appealing.” They want as many people as possible to use their product because they want as much money as possible. However, when you do this you start losing focus and your product suffers for it.
Instead of trying to cater to everyone’s needs, you should focus on one main user group and make their lives easier. If you can accomplish this then others will notice and use your service too. By focusing on one user group it
How many times have you used a product and thought, “Wow, this is so broken. How could they have missed this?”
As a user experience designer, I’ve been asking myself this question a lot lately. I think one of the reasons technology products sucks is because we don’t know how to talk about it. At least not in the way that artists or musicians can talk about their craft.
This is why I wanted to write this blog post. In the hope that by starting a conversation, we can figure out what makes a great technology product and how to build these products better.
What Makes A Product Great?
Whether it’s a website or an app on your phone, every product has three parts: Visual design (look), interaction design (feel), and information architecture (works). Let’s take a closer look at each of these parts.
Look: The visual style of a product should reflect its personality and make an emotional connection with the user. This is the part that most people notice first, especially when it comes to websites and mobile apps. If done well, it helps move people through the experience seamlessly; if not, it can be distracting or confusing.
Feel: This part of the design is all about how people interact with the interface
The other day I was in a store and a product caught my eye. It wasn’t the product itself but the phrase on the back of the package: “Technology doesn’t suck.”
I was immediately hooked. Of course, like most products that proclaim their goodness, it sucked. But that’s not why I’m writing this (although I will get to it). No, what interested me was how they were using technology as a selling point.
Which got me thinking about all those devices around us and how they are really just tools – tools that we use to make our lives easier. Those tools can be amazing – or they can be terrible. And you don’t have to look far to find examples of both.
Think about all those gadgets we play with today and then try to imagine life without them. How would we live? What would we do? And what does it take for someone to create one of these products? Sure, there are great engineers out there who understand all the ins and outs of making such things work. But what about everything else? The experience? The design? The packaging? It all plays a part; it all matters; and it’s all part of creating something great…
A good technology product is usually the result of a team of people working together. The end product tends to be a combination of the strengths and weaknesses of the people involved.
A lot has been written about what makes a great engineer. And there is lots of discussion about how it’s hard to find great engineers and what to do about it.
It’s easy for engineers to forget that there are other roles in the product development process, and that great products also require great non-engineers. I also think that when engineers start talking about hiring more engineers, they’re talking about hiring more of themselves, not more people who are going to make their lives easier.
In fact, I’ve found that engineering teams often tend to hire people with skillsets similar to those already on the team. It’s not that they’re trying to reproduce themselves; they just don’t realize how much they need someone with different talents and experiences.
I’m not a designer, but I’ve been in the trenches with designers at Google and Microsoft. I’m not a product manager, but I’ve worked closely with them and have the scars to prove it. This blog is my attempt to take those experiences and share them so that other developers can learn what it takes to make great products.
I do have some expertise in this area – I’ve written widely-used frameworks for web development (ASP.NET and JQuery) that are used by developers around the world, and have worked on products like MSN Hotmail. But my goal in writing this blog is not to talk about what it takes to make a good product from an engineering perspective, but from a practical perspective – how you can be part of a team that makes great products.
If you’re interested in me personally, here’s my resume, or you can read up on me on Wikipedia.
When I first started at Microsoft, I was a program manager working on a team building developer tools. There were a lot of projects that we needed to tackle, and the team pretty quickly became overwhelmed.
I remember having a conversation with one of my colleagues who had worked at Microsoft for years about how to make our process better. He said “We are going to have to figure out how to do less.”
Less? How could we do less? We were trying to be everything for everyone. How could we do less? We just needed more people!
Looking back, that moment was one of the most valuable lessons I learned in my career at Microsoft. If you try to do everything, you end up doing nothing well. You need to focus on what matters most and only do the things that matter.
As an engineer, I’m always interested in what makes an engineer great. This is a big topic and it’s hard to get agreement on the answer but I think it comes down to two things: execute well and ship on time. I think these are the two most important attributes of a great engineer.