Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday Readership - Usability, Specs and Getting to Know your customers

Today is Friday and although I've been quite silent on my blog this week, I'm going to get back to posting more often... and today's my readership day and I've got cool articles I'd like to refer you to....

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Usability and Conversion by Maciek Saganowski

The image above is the screenshot from his blog, sorry Maciek, couldn't resist :-)

This is a new blog by a good friend of mine, Maciek, who's also the guy responsible for the User Experience of our new Nozbe 2.0 - he also chose posterous as his blogging platform - make sure to subscribe to his blog to learn more about usability and user experience - Maciek knows a lot and practices what he preaches.

Now, to comment his article - I find it very true. Usability is not everything, but it's so important!

Maciek actually made me aware of many usability issues in our web app and I'm glad we've worked many of these. Now it's time for KAIZEN - continuous improvement and making it even better.

I've scheduled each Monday morning with my developer to work on one usability improvement for Nozbe - this way we'll have at least one issue worked out a week and ultimately our app will be getting even better on a continuous basis... and hopefully it'll also have an impact on our revenue and conversion... and overall happiness of our users :-)

I really dig David's advice and we'll be commenting more on the stuff from this interview in my next blog posts.

My initial comment: We're working on a new web app right now and I had the idea for it about a year ago... then I started developing specs and feature ideas.... and project kind of started to stall... I started to lose motivation although I think it'll be a great tool and would go with our current Nozbe really well...

And then I started building it... I started from its core feature... and now I know a lot better how this tool will work, suddenly things started to make more sense, my app started to look even cooler than I initially thought.. and I'm extremely excited about it.

It's a lot more fun and a lot more productive to start building something and seeing it grow... and starting from the core feature... and use it right away.

Tim Ferris in his "four hour workweek" said that asking for users how much they'd pay for something is useless, until you actually pull up the product and say - OK, sir, you said you'd pay for this kind of device 10 bucks - well here it is, how about buying now?

They you'll know if the potential client is in fact.. a client-to-be or just a person who's being nice to you.

Anyway, 37s advice on charging for things from day 1 is a great one and I intend to follow it with every product I've got... having people pay for your stuff makes the commitment on both sides a lot better and tighter. And is very rewarding for both parties, too. And as in this article - you get to know your real clients right away :-)

Question of the day:

Now it's your turn - which articles you'd like to refer to me? What stood out for your this week? Any cool piece of advice?

--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Money back guarantee - risk free shopping is good for you

The past weekend my small family (my wife, my daughter and myself) moved to a new apartment. It was a crazy weekend, with lots of work to do, lot's of stuff to move, etc. It'll be several months until we've made the new place "ours" as there are still lots of things to adjust, plan, buy... which brings me to the subject of today's post - risk free shopping...

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I had to buy lots of "small misc things" for the apartment in one of the big chain stores for home-builders (home-owners?). Although I'm not sure it's the cheapest place to buy stuff, there is one thing that I dig about this store:

You can return anything. No questions asked.

That's right - I can buy anything I want and later return it and they'll give me a full refund. They won't even ask me why. I just go the counter that says "returns" and I show my invoice and show the stuff I want to return... and within 5 minutes I have my money back. It's so simple.

No forms to fill out, no questionnaires to respond to, no extra mile to go...

It's a huge relief. Really, I don't have to care about the manufacturer's warranty, shipping my items back, or whatever.... I just give it back if something is not good for me.

This helps me make better decisions and shop more

If I'm not sure whether to go with one or the other color of an item, I just buy both, see how it fits in my flat and return the one I don't like. Or sometimes I even keep both...

The fact of the matter is that a returns policy is a must!

I mean really, I still see shops where they write: "please shop carefully, no returns will be accepted". I know where they are coming from, they don't want the headache of the returns... but they in fact also don't want the headache of quite a few extra customers.

If you're running a startup (or any business for that matter), make refunds easy-sneazy for your customers. When I started selling Nozbe, I started with 30-day money back guarantee... and it worked really well for me... until I introduced a 60-day money back guarantee... and it worked even better - I get even fewer returns and every user that signs up for Nozbe knows that they have two full months to give us a try and if my app doesn't deliver for any reason, their refund is just one email away. Simple and risk free.

What's more important for you? Cheaper purchase price or the comfort of a quick return for refund? Have you returned anything lately and got your money quickly, or was it complicated?

--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ikea is good enough - power of instant furniture and relatively few choices

Today we've been shopping for furniture with my wife and it took lots of time... I mean really lots of time... I'm tired... and I'm the guy who usually likes going shopping. To furnish our apartment we decided to go to some really nice furniture shops and later we visited Ikea, the only multinational furniture powerhouse...

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There is a very big difference between your purchase experience in Ikea and in the "traditional" design furniture stores (which are basically only expositions of a factory offer) - let's call them furniture boutiques.

1. Zillions of choices vs few choices

The traditional furniture boutiques have catalogues of endless fabrics and materials... you can have a bed in 10 sizes, tens of fabrics and each fabric can have tens of colors. This amounts to thousands of options! I'm not kidding you.

The best part - my wife literally almost killed me when after viewing 20+ samples of colors of a fabric she chose, she said to the salesman: "I wish you had more choice in colors... I can't find anything interesting in the choice you're giving me here"...

I mean, really? I'm a guy, I can only understand 16 colors... like Microsoft Windows 95 default settings. You give my wife a batch of 20 different colors and she wants more options.

In Ikea - you have a choice of 2-5 colors or fabrics. That's it. OK, in the Kitchen department there are like 10 fabrics maybe... but the rest of the store? Only a few. And sometimes a piece of furniture comes in one color and that's it. You just can't go wrong.

2. Delivery time 2-3 months vs instantly

This got me really confused. We're in the recession right now, right? Well then why oh why if there is a customer willing to pay a substantial amount of money for your nice designer piece of furniture, you tell him that he'll have the furniture by the end of January next year?

I mean really! 2-3 months to manufacture my sofa? What am I going to sit on in the meantime? 2 months for my bed to arrive? Where will I sleep?

Oh yes, I understand... While waiting I should go to Ikea to get a bed or sofa instantly and use it until my designer one arrives. Great deal, really.

Is Ikea "good enough"?

A while ago a friend of mine pointed me to an article in Wired about the "good enough" revolution. This article has a point - in Ikea you don't buy exquisite designer furniture... you buy really nice, well made and reasonably priced furniture that you can take home usually today and since you can choose between 2-5 colors, you simply can't go wrong and it'll fit most of the homes.

I like Ikea, I'd buy more stuff from them in an instant... but my wife is dreaming about different bed... different sofa, and she really needs dozens of colors to choose from. But on the other hand she's also mad about the waiting... she's the impatient one in our duo.

So what should we do? What would you do? Is Ikea's "good enough" furniture really good enough for you?

--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Monday, November 16, 2009

There is no such thing as customer support department

We want to move in to our new apartment in a little more than a week and we've got some stuff to buy before our new home is ready. Throughout the last two months I've been busy shopping for stuff like floors, paint, materials for building walls, etc. Big stuff, so big that most of the times I wouldn't be able to transport these things in my own car. Today I realized that throughout this "renovation time" I've been experiencing a very mixed customer support from the places went shopping to...

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Usually the purchase process was very smooth.

Again, I was buying stuff for the flat, so I wasn't buying peanuts for $1 a pack, I was usually spending hundreds (if not more) of dollars on things necessary to build and prepare our apartment for us to live in.

Sales people were nice to me.

Obviously, the sales people were happy about a client who as buying lots of stuff from them and they were really nice to me and offered advice, helped make decisions, etc.

But then I had to pick up the stuff...

However due to the fact that I was buying stuff in quantities or sizes, usually the place to pick up the stuff was in a totally different spot from the one where I was buying and paying for it.

And usually picking up stuff wasn't all that nice.

Contrary to the salespeople in the same company, the guys in the storage rooms didn't care how much I was buying. They had to just give me the stuff I bought with the least effort possible.

Going extra mile? Not really. Going the required mile? Well, if I was lucky.

So there I am, just bought lots of heavy stuff that I need to load it on to my car... and the storage guys, even if there is nobody else picking up merchandise, won't help me at all. Since I'm a guy who usually asks for help, I politely ask them and to my surprise they would very often either ignore me or flat out reply: "it's not my job." 

Again, I'm a guy who knows what he wants, so instead of asking, I'm telling them to help me and I'm already angry at them, the shop and the whole experience makes me upset.

Every department needs to be crazy about customer support.

Whatever the sales guy did to make my shopping experience great, the storage guys trashed with a vengeance. I'm really sorry for these shops, but I refused to buy there again. We're in the recession and there are many shops willing to have me as their client.

Luckily not every place was like this... but there were too many where the customer experience was sub-par. There is no such thing as customer support department, there should be a "customer support company".

Question: Is your company a "customer support company"? Have you had similar experiences as I have? Did you inform the shop owner about them? Where's the customer support department in your company?

--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

There are diffent markets and tastes and niches... and mice...

he Open Office mouse with 18 buttons, scroll wheel... and a joystick :-)

It's really hard to put anything more into this tiny pointing device. And yet I believe this akward-looking mouse can find itself quite a big niche of Open Office geeks who'll appreciate the variety of functions and features it offers.

The thing is - this kind of product will never hit mainstream. It's too complicated, too hard to use. It's ultimately too geeky.

But it can be succesful in its niche.

This is why it's important to know your target market. And the market of mouse users is very huge. But it doesn't mean that now the elegant Apple Magic mouse or any other Mouse nas to dominate it. There is a room even for a strangely-looking competitor provided it has something unique and special to offer.

Question: which mouse would/do you use? Newest oneby Apple, traditional by Logitech or Microsoft? Or this OOMouse?