Welcome to 1889. The field of photography was just changed forever. Up until recently, the process of taking and developing photos was expensive and cumbersome. As a result photography was available only to professional photographers or rich people.
Then, a guy named George Eastman comes up with a new way to take photos. He develops a special flexible, unbreakable, rolled film that allows people to take photos and then send the film to a factory where the photos can be developed and sent back to the customer’s house. Suddenly, photography becomes available to everyone. Kodak is born.
However, Mr. Eastman had one other innovation. In 1892 he came up with an advertising slogan for Kodak: “You press the button, we do the rest”. More than an advertising slogan, it was really the first time in history that a company captured the user experience of its product in a single clear and crisp sentence.
Eastman understood that the key pain for the amateur photographer was the long and complicated process of taking photos. As a result, he came up with the idea that photographers should just focus on taking a great photo and that Kodak can handle the printing. He captured that in this single pithy sentence that described the unique compelling vision of the company. Let’s call this the User Experience Vision (UXV if you will) of the product.
From Paul Graham’s “Do one thing and do it well” to Steve Jobs’ “Focusing is about saying no”, the idea of focus is one that is often mentioned, and frequently ignored. After working with many startups, I came to the conclusion that there’s nothing more important for a startup than the ability to clearly understand what it builds and then relentlessly focus on it.
How can you achieve such focus though? Let’s look at two examples that will help explain the concept of a User Experience Vision.
Evernote is a note-taking tool. Every computer ships today with at least two or three free, pre installed, note-taking applications. How come Evernote is so successful? One reason for that is Phil Libin’s grand vision for the product. He wants it to replace your brain. Seriously. This is beautifully captured by Evernote’s perfectly crafted tagline — “Remember Everything”. So simple. So powerful. The beauty of this tagline is that it touches a real pain (you forget stuff), offers a compelling vision (you will now remember everything), and even more importantly – gives the Evernote team a beautiful User Experience Vision to optimize for.
When Dropbox was founded, there were probably more than 100 companies that were offering some sort of cloud storage or backup. How did Dropbox grow so fast? Phenomenal virality aside, the key to Dropbox’s success was a fantastic product. But what did Dropbox build? When they started their message was: “Your files everywhere”. Simple. Powerful. Clear. Now, as they move beyond that, it changed to “Simplify your life”. It relates to the Dropbox’s plan for the future.
The Ingredients of a Great User Experience Vision
It’s very hard to capture the UXV of your product in such a meaningful and concise manner. To make it easier, consider the four critical elements that make a great User
- It addresses a real need – If you don’t know what is the need you are solving for, I suggest that you take time and think through it. Now. It will also give you a good starting point for defining the UXV and help you focus on what is meaningful for the user.
- It is simple — keeping the UXV simple is critical so you can communicate it effectively to your customers, team, partners or any other stakeholder. If it is not simple, you probably didn’t figure out the right UXV yet.
- It serves as a guiding light — a successful UXV provides guidance to your team as for what to build next. It can help you think through your roadmap and identify whether the next feature you are building will be useful or not.
- It is unique — it does not apply to every other startup on earth. Don’t have as your UXV something like “Great User Experience”. The more unique it is, the more meaningful it will be.
It is not easy to come up with a UXV. It takes time. You have to intimately understand the needs of your users. It might take weeks to come up with a good one and either way you will keep developing and refining it. The time to start is now.
Excerpt image from Smashing Magazine