September 20, 2011

This is broken

In a humorous talk by Seth Godin at the Gel Conference in 2006, he pointed out there are things that are just plain broken and explained what makes things broken.

Some of the biggest takeaways I got from his talk include the following:

  • You don't get to decide if something is broken, the people who use it do.
  • You need to decide ahead of time how much brokenness you are willing to tolerate before you get to the ship date. Keep in mind, you don't really get to decide if it's broken or not, your customers do. It's probably best to get it in front of them to let them decide, unless it is clearly broken and simply needs to be fixed.
  • There might be times when stuff is broken by design. The masses may not understand why you have a giant green button on a screen with 30 point font, but the tribe you are leading might understand completely. To 80% of the population, your application looks broken but the other 20% love what you have done. You have tailored it to them because you understand them. It's all about knowing your customer.
  • Each of us has the opportunity every day to push back on the stuff we think is broken. If we see something that isn't quite right, we should question it. We should ask if there is a way to fix it. Maybe we even need to fix it. And if we can't really fix the root problem, we can at least create a better experience for our customers by providing them an alternate path and making it easier for them.
  • Finally, if you know something is broken, fix it, or else you risk losing your customers. This doesn't necessarily mean you need to drop everything right this second to fix what is broken. It simply means you take responsibility for it being broken, acknowledge what is broken, and let your customer know you will fix it. As a side note, you should keep the dialog with your customer open to make sure they know you haven't forgotten about them, and provide a few alternate ways they might be able to move forward until the issue is resolved. Don't underestimate the importance of communication. 
Here's the video. Enjoy!

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