Mistake: Focus on Feature Parity
Sometimes you win because the competition goes out of their way to lose. Usually this is the case when one company nails it, and everyone else strikes out.
Take Apple’s iPod: Yes, it was well designed, and in many ways raised the bar for consumer product design. Reality was that iPod was feature barren compared to many competitors. So why did iPod succeed? In short, none of the competitors to the first three generations of iPod had a really easy way to get music onto their device. So while Creative Labs, SanDisk, iRiver, Microsoft and Toshiba all tried their best to “achieve feature parity” by adding removable batteries, slots for extra memory, better DRM, ways to share songs, support for more file formats, and FM tuners people were buying more iPods that had none of those features. iPod had what mattered: an easy way to get music into the device.
Mistake: Design for existing customers instead of customers you would like have.
If you want more customers, design your product to appeal to customers you do not already have. Incidentally, that also means that your existing customers are not always the right people to ask about new features. I recently was talking to a product manager from a database virtualization company about why they did not have a Linux version. The answer? “We asked our customers and no one wanted it.” Of course they didn’t they were already using the product on Windows! Incidentally, according to Security Space and W3Techs, Linux has over 60% of the server market…
Mistake: Rely on Flawed Surveys in Design Decisions
A story my friend and American Airlines alum Paul Lorinczi tells is of American Airlines asking passengers, “Would you prefer a healthy meal or the current high calorie, high fat meal we serve today?” The survey’s results? Everyone wanted healthy. Caterers were fired. New suppliers were hired. Millions were spent. High calorie, high fat meals like meatloaf and lasagna were jettisoned for healthy salads and chicken.
One small problem: Passengers hated the healthy meals. They didn’t like to eat them. They did like the idea of healthy.
A few weeks later, American brought back lasagna and meatloaf. What happened? According to Lorinczi, “Passengers were asked if they wanted healthy or unhealthy. Who wants unhealthy anything?”