Delusional Notions

Thoughts on product marketing, remix culture, and assorted ephemera.

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Live from BOS2012: “Building a Minimum Badass User” with Kathy Sierra

"Live" notes from Business of Software 2012 in Boston, October 1-3, 2012. See all my notes from Business of Software 2012 by clicking here. Feel free to use these anywhere, but please credit me if you do.

Building a Minimum Badass User, Kathy Sierra

So many economies: the attention economy, the female economy, the Facebook economy, even the MySpace economy.  (pinterest, etc., too) It’s impossible to “compete on all these.” How did we get in this mess?

We want our products to be desirable, but we NEED them to be SUSTAINABLY DESIRABLE.

What’s happened in the last few years is the emergence of “desirability engines” and the like. It’s based on the idea that people like to “engage with brands.” But we don’t have an ENGAGEMENT problem. More engagement isn’t the answer. In fact trying to get people more engaged with the brand actually harms the brand in most cases.

Gamification is based on operant conditioning. It’s literally the same thing as the rat in the Skinner Box. It’s the same thing responsible for slot machines and cocaine. It’s not loyalty, it’s bribery.

We need to be sustainable desirable WITHOUT having to bribe, incentivize, coerce customers.

So what does it mean to make something sustainably desirable? What are the key attributes?

GP;DS “Great Product. Didn’t Sell.” History is littered with great products that didn’t sell.

So if it’s not quality that drives desirability, what does?

People trust reviews from family and friends. Also online recommendations. It’s word of mouth.

So what drives WOM? What makes people say “This brand/product/service is awesome?”

The user’s goal is to BE AWESOME. Companies frequently want to be PERCEIVED AS AWESOME. These are two very different things, and there’s a very small overlap between them.

Compete on User Awesome, not App Awesome. Being viewed as awesome is a natural side-effect of making your customers awesome.

The key attributes of a successful app live in the User, not in the App.

So desirability is about User Results.

The bar for App Awesome is really high,and it’s noisy and bloody underneath it. The bar for User Awesome is amazingly low.

Making User Awesome is NOT LUCK. And it’s not quality or marketing. It’s a focus on making the User Awesome.

It’s not about making crappy software, of course. It’s about focusing your resources differently – on User Awesome.

And by “awesome” we mean “badass.” Because the word “awesome” is too easy to apply back to the company again. There’s actually science around the concept of “badass.”

So really, the fundamental way to think about this is User Badass. They’re using your app not because they like you, but because they like themselves. And they’re telling their friends about you not because they like you but because they like their friends.

Your product is just a tool.

What does the user DO with or BECAUSE of you? What bigger things do you enable? Nobody’s goal is to be “badass at your tool.”

Be aware of how you treat customers before and after they give you money.

It’s dangerous to replace glitzy “you’ll be awesome” marketing literature with dry and bland manuals, etc. The problem isn’t that they’re bland specifically, but that they don’t address how to make the user awesome – they focus on the product.

The only thing that matters at the end of the day is what happens when the clicking’s done. Don’t design for your users, design for your user’s users. How can you make your users more interesting at work, or more interesting at a dinner party?

Making your user badass has the side effect of sustained word of mouth.

The Science of Expertise

"Given a representative task, experts perform in a superior way, more reliably, than experienced non-experts."

badass = reliably superior performance

Don’t confused badass with “jackass” – one single act of extreme brilliance (or extreme risk) does not make expertise.

Myths of expertise

Expertise comes from more knowledge.

Expertise comes from more experience

Expertise comes from natural talent.

After 18-24 months, years of experience is a poor predictor of future performance.

The 10,000 hour rule isn’t about 10,000 hours. It’s about 10,000 hours of doing a very specific type of thing.

Becoming badass takes THREE things:

  • Models
  • Edge Practice
  • Forward Flow
See K. Anders Ericsson and Edward Deci. Also “Drive” by Daniel Pink. It’s the best summary of self-determination theory. Also watch his TED talk. Also “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle.
 
Step Zero: Define badass for your thing.
 

Given <representative task> an expert would <perform better in some way>.

Now that you know WHAT badass/experts do, you just how to know HOW they do it. Easy, right? :)

This is the curse of badass. Experts frequently don’t know how they do it. “I just know….” or they think it’s somehow obvious. It comes from deep intuition, which is hard to describe. Our brains do things above our security clearance.

If you could do one thing to make your users more badass, provide them with repeated exposure to the performance, process, and results of badass users. (models)

Most people could learn better by literally staring at experts and the result of expert work. The more experience you have with mediocre examples, the more likely it is for those examples to become burned in.

Brains can acquire deep perceptual knowledge and skills more effectively we we STFU. See “doing with symbols” by Alan Kay.

If you could do two things to make your users more badass, add a progressive series of exercises, each designed to build a fine-grained skill within 1 to 3 sessions. (edge practice)

Edge / deliberate practice is NOT the same as tutorials. High-quality, low-latency feedback. Example: play this short musical passage with no mistakes, at this speed in this key.

If you could do three things, add a clear, believable map that shows the growth of skill toward expertise. See the degrees of martial arts mastery for a good example of this.

Provide a “motivational GPS” to keep them moving forward, especially when it gets tough.

There’s one thread that drives all this. It’s the most crucial design point of view.

Cognitive resources are scarce, limited, and easily depleted. We should be managed cognitive leaks wherever we can. This is also why we get end-capped at the supermarket at the END of our shopping trip, not at the beginning.

This tells us we should to “cognitive-resource-driven design,” which is a hard thing to say, but it means things like, “Being overwhelmed by choices is a huge leak.”

The best mentor says, “I know what the books say, but forget that… here’s what REALLY matters…” There’s something where you’re an expert, and you KNOW everyone else looks in the wrong place. The more your product can point people to what really matters, the better you serve them.

How to be instantly badass. Stand like a superhero. We know this experimentally – posing like a superhero increases testosterone and reduces cortisol.


Filed under bos2012

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