[Live from Home Depot, via my Blackberry]
As part of my VC gig, I see a ton of new software and services. I get lots of opportunities to talk and deal with the developers of these products. One thing that continues to amaze me is how often the development of a product gets disconnected from the users when it comes to features and functionality.
I used to jump on developers that worked directly for me, saying that people have to be comfortable using something or the dogs won’t eat it no matter how cool it is. The pain of getting a flow changed, functions switched, etc, amazed me. Even when faced with a mountain of feedback, some developers just couldn’t get past this notion that trying to force people to get outside their respective comfort zones is, at best hard and, at worst, a company recipe for disaster.
Enter the toilet seat as the new tool you can use to help these otherwise extremely talented people; GET IT!
I’m on a (temporary) kick to act like a real homeowner. This involves things like new garbage cans, cleaning out the garage, dusting behind the refrigerator, etc, etc. And getting a new toilet seat for one of the upstairs bathrooms has now made it to the top of the hunnee doo list.
This morning, I decided to head on over to Home Depot to get a replacement toilet seat. Having never done this before and thinking there might be various sizes, I did the sensible thing and removed the existing toilet seat so I could compare with a new one.
On the way over I started thinking about how normal (aka comfortable) it will be to wander around home depot with a toilet seat. Everybody in the place is there to do something involving the installation or repair of something. Indeed one might think of it as a sign of pride or a badge of honor that I, lowly VC/Bureaucrat, had the macho chops to be DIY in the bathroom business. Oh, yeah. In fact, to be Joe “I’m bad” Fix-it Stud Muffin, you haul around the whole toilet but that’s for another day.
I was, at the same time, pretty certain that if I walked around the grocery store with a toilet seat, the reaction would not be the same. I was sure of it, but as a service to my now loyal readership of 20 (thanks to all the cousins out there), I endeavored to prove this theory.
I swung by the grocery store (Sobeys, if you must know), hopped out and proceeded in with my toilet seat. I dropped it into the basket, wandered around, grabbing a few things, and then headed to the checkout. Stares, looks, snickers from kids, right on cue.
Next, I headed over to the Home Depot and did same. Nothing. Everybody, including the kids with parents, were all busy doing whatever.
By now, you’ve gotten the point.
Developers of products and services spend way to much time thinking that whatever environment they are in, it’s the same comfort zone as everybody else. So, the next time you want to remind a developer/designer to remember the target, send em out for a case of soda and a bag of chips while carrying the office toilet seat. That feeling of being uncomfortable, stared at, etc, is what some people feel like when a software and service isn’t comfortable for them.
Wow, a toilet seat with built-in blue-tooth and it’s on sale, cool!