When you see a product or service that nails the user experience it often feels obvious.
The wheel on the ipod
The feel of the TiVo remote control
The consistency of what’s listed under each menu on all Apple applications
Shopping on Amazon
But the reality is that getting the user experience is really hard stuff. Many times I hear from entrepreneurs something like “oh, we’re definitely going to hire a great UI guy….”
Or VCs might look at a web service created by a 19 year old and think how hard could that be. Where is the secret sauce to this product?
Watching companies consistently and dramatically improve their UI is something I love to watch. Veoh for example has been improving their website and player consistently over the past 18 months. And it’s really paying off. They are now ranked under 250 on Alexa and growing like crazy. They aren’t doing any marketing really. Users love their product.
Contrast that with the UI that some cable operators ship on their DVRs. Over the memorial day weekend, I was visiting my parents in Long Island. They have a HD DVR cable box from Cablevision. I couldn’t believe how unusable the on screen guide was. We are now more than 11 years since TiVo and WebTV introduced really easy EPGs for DVRs. Is it really hard to nail a season pass UI or UI dealing with scheduling conflicts on a DVR. My guess is that the folks working on the Cablevision box really aren’t obsessed with the user experience. It feels like the UI is merely a check box and they are moving on to other things. Or check out the user interface that comes with your digital camera or HDTV. Horrible.
Getting the user experience right is a rare gift. It’s art. It’s much more than a good use of technology. You either have it or you don’t.
At last week’s D conference Bill Gates had a memorable quote about Steve jobs:
“"I’d give a lot to have
Steve’s taste – in terms of intuitive taste for people and products,”
he said. “The way he does things, it’s just different. It’s magical.”
But more than a gift or magic, it requires obsession. Not just passion. But
constant obsession to details.
We should appreciate this when we see a startup get this right. It’s ain’t easy and it’s big barrier to entry.