Sunday, February 10, 2008

UED in tech

Silicon Valley is very much about coming up with new things and creating new markets often through technology. This is a different challenge then trying to break into a existing market through an evolution of market. One of the things that the makers must demonstrate is that the new technology can work and demonstrate it's usefulness. To do that means the 1.0 release must be stable and "just works".

I often see teams trying to build the "perfect" product with the "perfect" interface as part of version 1.0. Engineering attention is taken away from the product technology and stability to focus on the UI. Everyone wants to have the best product out there, but in a new market nobody knows what "perfect" or "best" means since nobody has experience with it. It's just better to make sure that what is built is built solidly and be flexible about making user experience improvements iteratively (which is easier to do in software then hardware).

Personally, I believe that User Experience and Design (UED) plays an important in product development. As Apple has shown, a good design can help take a product to the next level. However, I also feel that too much focus on UED can sometimes hurt innovation (non-UED type innovation) of a new product type. Apple didn't invent the mp3 player. It allowed the mp3 market to develop and once the world has come to accept the need for mp3 players, Apple build a product with a design and interface that dazzled and became the leader.

So folks, if you're trying to enter an existing market, take the time to examine the competition, don't make the same mistake and improve on what is out there. If you're trying to create a new market, put your resources into making the first launch stable and useful so you can grow the market.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Why Starbucks is so expensive.

Starbucks drinks are pretty expensive and this past weekend I realized why it is and it's not that it's a brand name or that they are selling an experience as well as a cup of coffee. No, the reason is the high cost of the water and cups they use.

This weekend, I was at the airport when I need a cup of hot water to warm the baby formula. The airport had free hot water in the food court where Starbucks is also located, but I needed a cup to hold the water. I went to the Starbuck counter and asked if I could have a cup of hot water and was told no and that I had to purchase the hot water. When I asked if I could just get a cup for it and that I'll pour it myself from the hot water station, I was again told that I had to purchase the cup. How expensive is the water and cup they use? Anyway, I went to the California Pizza Kitchen next to Starbucks and asked the same question. The lady was more then happy to give me an empty cup and even guess that I might be using it to heat something so she gave me a small bowl to make it easier for me.