Monday, September 19, 2011

Oooh... shiny!

It is said that Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  What one finds as a crafted masterpiece, another sees as a big pile of junk.  Well this past month I've had a bit of a revelation.  Technology value is also in the eye of the beholder.  Having spent a majority of my career in IT and Tech Marketing trying to understand the science behind value  (Utility and Warranty to the ITIL geeks in the house), I go back to a presentation I did 2 years ago where I proposed a third value point, aesthetics.  Well a few recent events have confirmed my belief that the way something looks and engages the physical senses (sight and touch in particular) heavily influence the value perception.

Example 1: New phones for the family.
Recently we made a trip to Best Buy, where my wife, 2 older children and I picked out super cool Android Smartphones.

    Upon arriving home the family was all excited about the shiny new phones... until I had to go and put stop to the joy.  "Guys, the phones are going back!", you would have thought I had just shot the family dog (if we had one).   Stared down with looks of trying to figure out whether I was joking or brave enough to take on a revolt, my Ludite wife chimed in "Why, what's wrong?".
    No Bars!  That's right, not a single carrier signal in my house.  No one even noticed that their new new shiny phones actually work as phones.  As cool and feature rich these phones were, I had to introduce my family to the value point of Warranty, specifically availability.  Happily, Best Buy took the phones all back, no questions and we were able to get on a carrier with a great signal.  However, no simple phone for the former Ludite, she had to have the iPhone now that she got a taste of coolness.  :)

Example 2:  Recent release of SMAK
A week and a half ago, we released two major features our Alpha testers were screaming for:
A) A message counter on each of the life mode tabs, so you could see which aspect of your life needed attention.
B) A simpler easier way to assign your active relationships into your life mode categories (work, home, friends, etc...)

Right after we released these new features, we were all so excited about the new look and feel and the great new features that we didn't realize that the system was starting to crawl to its knees.  So time for another lesson on the value point of Warranty, this time on performance.  Yet, despite the performance issue, no one wanted to take out the new shiny alerting feature.  What? You can not go to market as the best productivity enhancement tool since the wheel, if your technology crawls, it's just that simple.  Yet, the crowd spoke clearly, we want Shiny and Fast, and Usable.

Needless to say, my revelation is this.  Regardless of all the science and market research on Value creation, excitement does not come from functionality (utility) and performance (warranty) alone.  Utility and Warranty maintain excitement and the emotional attachment to the technology which influences perceptions and prejudices people use to measure on-going value.  However, if you really want to get people excited enough that they want to become advocates for your success, you better make it a great user experience, simple, tasteful and crisp.

Expect some real upgrades on SMAK's User Interface over the next few weeks.  Also, check out our latest video: