I’m developing a new website which is an on-line supermarket. Here’s some of the features I’ll be building into it in terms of usability.
If you want to place an order for milk, you must first look at all the items you don’t want to buy. They will pop up on the screen one by one. You’ll have to click past all of them. Then the milk will pop up after you’ve seen every other product for sale to click on. But after this, you then must click past all of the goods for sale again. The same ones we already showed you. When you want to proceed to the checkout, we’ll make you wait for maybe 5 or more minutes and show you many of the items you already saw on screen, again, just in case you changed your mind. If you decide to shop late at night at our on line supermarket, only one person can buy at a time, because we will restrict our ‘server’ so that all of our customers cannot buy their supermarket items simultaneously. This is because we will be trying to save a few dollars on serving people. A few people might leave and go somewhere else, but it will be a great expense saving idea.
Sounds pretty ridiculous right? Well, this is defined as ‘retail strategy’ in the physical supermarket world. Maybe it’s time they re-thought how they do some things. Right now there is tremendous opportunity for smart startups in the retail space employ on-line usability best practice to show some dinosaurs how it’s done.
In the October 1994 Issue of Wired, Gary Wolfe said in an article, article about Mosiac (the worlds first GUI web browser) and the coming internet revolution.
“When it comes to smashing a paradigm, pleasure is not the most important thing…
it is the only thing.”
Startup blog asks this:
What kind of pleasure is your startup bringing to its people?
It’s what we create for the people who care. The truth is we never know how hard it was to deliver the right product, at the right place at the right time. We only care that it was.
What we (the entrepreneurs, producers, marketers) had to go through is not part of the consideration set. It isn’t charity, it’s about them. So if we nail it and deliver the project quickly, we needn’t feel guilty or less deserving. Likewise, if it took us 5 years of hard working weekends and nights, that’s also no reason to feel a level of entitlement. We need to feel what they feel – underwhelmed or overwhelmed with what we deliver, how we got there is far less important.
What is the shortest path from the front door to a smile. It doesn’t matter if we play in the web space, retail or have a factory… Once we map that out, we have defined our core utility.
It’s easy to get caught up in the brilliant stories of startups going viral to gain awareness, and the simplicity and usability of certain websites turning into large revenue streams. How cool the actual product is, the fact that the founders just built it and the rest just happened. This is the veritable entrepreneurial myth.
Here’s a few things to think about:
How many sales and business development people do you think Google has? Answer = around 5000. And we all thought their non human automated adwords system did it all.
What investment has Twitter made in Public Relations? You think Oprah and Obama just happened upon it? No they were pitched to heavily with a large investment in leading PR firms.
How many Youtube videos were posted by company created accounts? Answer = Hundreds of thousands.
Who seeds the quirky auction items on ebay? Answer = ebay started the game very early on and let the media know.
Everything is not as it seems. Push marketing is alive wand well, just the tactics have changed. It feels very organic and community driven, but the often the community is created by it’s founders and leaders. Nothing wrong with that, it is the job of entrepreneurs to invent said communities. But it makes for better business articles to talk of such things occurring naturally, so the real story is rarely told.
The question for startups is – what tactics can we employ to garner the same momentum?
The art of adding features to any product or service is this:
Those who need or want the new features can find them easy.
Meanwhile those who don’t need or want the features don’t even notice them. They are invisible.
Sounds impossible to do, but I think the team at twitter are doing a pretty good job of it. The way I’d try and achieve this would be by making sure the visual structure doesn’t change, and the sequence of events to use it is not interrupted.
shhh – here comes the controversy.
Sometimes it’s worth being even just a little bit awesome. We don’t need to change the world, maybe just having a little bit of public fun is enough. The usually conservative BBC did that for me today when I realised the following: The BBC video player has a volume which goes to 11.
It’s what I call unexpectedly awesome. I was delighted. So much that I’ve linked here to little video of Warren Buffett being interviewed. Upon which you can learn something and also pump the volume up to 11.
Startups – do something a little bit awesome.