Can they even see your site

Simple, useful & rather interesting way to look at how well is a given site visible without scrolling (on different resolutions). I tried my website & some others to see how well were they visible (& the results were surprising - try CNN).

Maybe it also has to do with my computer's native resolution & screen size (I am running 1920 X 1200 on a 24.5 LCD Panel). In any case, here is the official version from Google itself & the Google labs link

'Google Browser Size is a visualization of browser window sizes for people who visit Google. For example, the "90%" contour means that 90% of people visiting Google have their browser window open to at least this size or larger.'

My 10 yrs old toothbrush

In the fall of 1999, I brought an electric toothbrush. I paid about $80 for it...I thought it was a little too much for a toothbrush, but I was young at that time ;-). It was a Braun product & I use it till date. I did not think much about just sat on my bathroom sink. While looking at this video & listening to Dieter Ram talk about design, I realized how deeply embedded are the notion of design in that product.

For a technology product to last that long & be so integrated in your life that you don't even think about is probably the ultimate milestone of good design. It never ceases to amaze me how deeply some people think about these things. Thank You Mr. Ram, for making things around us usable, useful & integral.

UX/UI for dummies screenshot

Hotmail was the first free email service back in the early days (remember Sabeer Bhatia). It had a huge first mover advantage & is now Microsoft owned. However, when you put on your usability glasses, it seems that some basic things that one would notice seems to be amiss.

Just take the two search boxes...Two??Yes, really...see the screenshot. It makes me think that there was no thought put into what was getting developed. Is it not a fair assumption that most of the modern browsers have a little search box on their top right corner? Why would Hotmail users would want to search on Bing after logging into their Hotmail account?

But what if we wanted hotmail users to try out Bing? How do we increase the adoption of our cool new search engine? Well...maybe we can offer one search box, but two search results - side by side - one from the user's emails & other from the web; Now you've got my attention. I(the user) is thinking...Hotmail is pretty cool - Gmail cannot do that for me, nor can Yahoo. This is so cool. & maybe I will click a hyperlink & you have introduced me to your cool new search engine - in a Permission Marketing sort of way. Here is how GMail does it today...

Another issue that I ran into recently. I received 6 exact emails for Azure trial from Microsoft & yet Live/Hotmail did not think it was spam (while it sometimes flags my regular emails as spam). Again, it seems to me that its the little things that matter & that is where Apple & Google sometimes (well most of the times) have an edge over Microsoft.

Beyond good enough...

My apologies for the silence. I was in the "get busy living" mode.

Anyway, my last two posts on this subject tried looking at the two sides of the fence. From an old school marketing perspective, one can say that good enough products are intended for the lower end of the customer segment in the western as well as emerging markets.

However, with that definition it is hard to visualize where does cheap chic fit in? Are the people shopping at IKEA just the lower / middle income groups? What about at Costco / Target / Kohls? Is an average Apple customer a very affluent person?

The point is that customer segments specifically from a price point are blurring, & that is diminishing the saleability of mediocre products. The sales number may not indicate that, but in the mind of the consumer, some of today's market leaders are loosing a battle.

McDonald's decision to eliminate trans fatty acids, Microsoft's change in life cycle policy to support XP till 2014 & shopping experience between Target & Walmart are all indicative of a more aware & assertive consumer. what does a business do? How do we get out of the mediocrity & into a segment where our business / product / services are beyond "good enough"?

I am not a marketing / strategy guru & some of this may sound fairly cliched, but it is surprising how few organizations have internalized it. Here is my "Do or Die" list...

1. "Design Or Die" for the user
Not for the press, not for the marketing guys, not for anyone else but for your user. Products, Services or whatever in between you have...make sure that "it just works" for the user, otherwise do us all & the environment a great favor & go out of business.

2. Differentiate Or Die
Read about the DHL layoffs...In a UPS / FEDEX world, I never did figure out what was DHL's unique selling proposition. They may be a little cheaper, but price is rarely a strategic differentiator. So, unless your cow is purple, "yer business is a knockin the pearly gates anytime".

3. Innovate Or Die
So you are in an economy that is not doing well & not sure what to do. Well, figure out a way to offer cheaper day care, help someone improve or enrich what they are trying to do...Innovate a service or a product to ride the price sensitive wave. For a while, price may be a pretty good tactical advantage. ;-). Unless you want a Chinese manufacturer to eat your lunch, Innovate, Patent, Sell & Repeat.

4. Passionate Or Die
In the "Only the paranoid survive" spirit, I think we all need to realize how easily replaceable our products & services have become. The truth is that more than ever, we all need to be passionate about what we do, & offer a zest & zeal that is not easily replicable, or be ready to get Outsourced.

I will end my thoughts here for now. Most of this is really what I have understood from reading Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell, the Heath brothers & a lot of other thought provoking authors.


Why good enough is not good enough?

So what is common between Microsoft & American Automobile manufacturers? Both of them command a significant percentage of market share but seem to be loosing ground in the minds of consumer (just my opinion...numbers could probably tell a whole different story).

The common factor is mediocrity. The overall experience of ownership or usage of these consumer products is mediocre or good enough. It's not the best, not the worst, just good enough. Office works pretty well for some, not so well for others, but it works somewhat. The same logic applies to the Taurus's of the world.

These products may not be the tops in efficiency or style or experience or usability, but they are all good enough. Well apparently, good enough is not good enough & the middle segment is shrinking. Why??

1. Technology - It turns out that a few years ago, you had to be a Linux guy to use it, but today with an "easy to install & use experience", Ubuntu is a compelling alternative to Windows (same for Open Office).

These type of products are creating a migration from the middle segment to the bottom layers (especially true for developing countries / price sensitive segments). On the other hand, Toyota Prius is creating a migration to the upper segment with superior technology (Yep, 20K + for a compact car)

2. Design - Is expanding the top & the bottom segments by making the products more appealing, usable & hip. No longer is design expensive (IKEA, Target, Toyota Scion) & thus a mediocre product or service experience is just not selling very well. No points for guessing Apple, but others include Volkswagen & Nissan.

3. Innovation - is another reason why the middle segment is shrinking. Products & services better suited for our needs command a premium way over the good enough category (Yep...$90 for a Braun Toothbrush..who would have guessed?). This limits the economic incentive to be in the mediocre products category (unless of course, you have very high exit barriers).

4. Too much crap - Straight out of the Dan Pinkerton world, Asia, Automation & Abundance have made some of us rethink about what do we need (& how much of it). Although, this mindset of not buying too much crap is expanding organically, but it is a segment which seems highly averse to buying mediocre products.

5. Changing Lifestyle - As the migration to cities gathers steam, we will have smaller spaces to ourselves, & thus would want less stuff (in which case, mediocre products are probably out). Same applies for multi tasking...Blackberry is a great example of this.

I am sure this list can go on & on with internet, wisdom of the crowds, better access to reviews & ownership experience etc., but the point is....

Good enough is not good enough.

In the next post, my thoughts on what can we do to get out of the "Good Enough" category.