Design Thinking – A creative process …

The success of a startup is highly dependent on its ability to solve a problem or to meet a market need. In order to find the right solution you need to be empathetic and understand your customer which sounds easy but in reality it really really isn’t! Many startups fail because they don’t have enough customers, so building a product that people want is a massive challenge. I wish there was a magic formula that would enable founders to build solutions that people want but unfortunately that formula doesn’t exist. There isn’t a single method or article or workshop that will give you the correct answer. However, what we can do is tackle a problem using different tools and methods and we can keep on trying till we get it right. One of these tools is “Design Thinking”, personally I have always been an analytical thinker but  about three years ago I was introduced to design thinking as a creative way to solve problems especially in the startup world and I found it interesting. I was happy to know that there was a practitioner who was looking to do an indepth design thinking workshop in Kuwait, we will be hosting her workshop at Sirdab Lab in collaboration with Nuqat but I also wanted to interview her for our StartupQ8 community. Below is Yara’s interview, Enjoy :)

What is design thinking?

Through out his book “Design Thinking,” Nigel Cross claims that everyone is capable of designing, from kids to elderly, each in their unique manner. Cross refers to design as a plan to create something, from a building blueprint to a stick figure. The evidence from different cultures around the world, and from designs created by children as well as by adults, suggests that everyone is capable of designing.

So design thinking is something “inherent within human cognition; it is a key part of what makes us human.” Design thinking is rooted to the way designers connect with people (users and consumers), how they come to a problem from the people’s perspective, and how they create meaningful experiences for them. Design thinking is about methodology as much as it is about culture. Thus designers have to make sense of the place they are in to discover opportunities and be inspired by them.

Nigel Cross defines design thinking as “the study of the cognitive processes that are manifested in design action.” He supports the previous statement by stating that design thinking “is better understood as an activity of the problem-solving process.”

How can it help startups?
A startup is a company working to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed. Design thinking is a combination of analytical (the present facts) and creative (the envisioned future) thinking. Design thinking can be adopted in startups as an approach to break down the current context, know the target audience involved, and then envision the best solution accordingly. Design thinking allows testing early hypotheses before launching the final product to the market, this saves time and resources, and could result in successful project results.

People are now more savvy than they were 5 years ago, so they won’t put up with a poorly designed product or service if there’s a better alternative out there. If we really want to win customers over, we need to think beyond the product and services, we need to think about how to create a tailored, harmonic and enjoyable user experience for our customers.

Can you provide case studies or examples where design thinking has had tremendous value?
Businesses, like IDEO, a pioneer today within the service design sector, and others, are embracing design thinking because it helps them come up with more innovative ideas, thereby better differentiating their brands, and bring their products and services to the market faster. Non profits organizations are also beginning to use design thinking as well to develop better solutions to social challenges. Today, the government in the UK is using design thinking to solve social challenges. The beauty of design thinking is its flexibility to tackle all kinds of challenges.

Procter and Gamble initiates design thinking workshops to bring together employees from across the consumer-products giant, including R&D, market research, and purchasing, to show the impact of visualization and prototyping when solving real problems for the company. Others companies like Philips, Apple, General Electric, Volkswagen, and even universities are adopting design thinking as a problem solving and teaching method.

Which methods do you follow and why?
Since design thinking is a fairly new methodology in today’s market, there has been various and constant research around it. Today, design thinking has bridged various disciplines such as business, sociology, science, and various others. For this reason, many of the methods used within design thinking come from its multi-disciplinary background.

I use creative methods likes Personas that allow designers and creators to give life to the users I am targeting. Customer Journey is another effective tool that follows Personas to map out the overall experience of the user using a certain service or product. Such tools give birth to empathy and connection to the user, thereby creating human-centered solutions. I also follow my heart and gut instincts, they always mean something. Methods like Role Play are great at envisioning solutions and connect with the user. Group building methods are also effective to build a holistic team composed of different personalities and competencies.

What are the steps of design thinking and can you briefly explain each step?
Every design thinking process starts with a challenge, problem, or case study acting as the main issue from which user research and context starts. Like any challenge in whatever context, one must understand the current situation, context, people related, and exterior factors; let’s call this first phase, (1) Collect Information. After getting a general overview on the situation and people involved, one must dig deeper to extract specific user needs and circumstances. Design thinking is based on human centered-design, working to cater the needs of the users or consumers involved. Usually after this step there is a river of information about the situation and the people around it. This is where the second phase, (2) Connect the Findings follows, in an attempt to connect all the findings and make sense of them. This will lead to spotting patterns, habits, and norms that naturally form themes or working areas where one can move to third phase (3) Extract Opportunities. The trick in this phase is to generate as many ideas as possible, preferably the most innovative and out of the box. Generating ideas is usually done through brainstorming in groups consisting of people from different backgrounds, this gives birth to eclectic and innovative ideas under one roof. Only a few ideas usually make it to the next phase, ready to be implemented. After filtration and evolution to reach the most promising idea, phase four, (4) Execute a Solution, follows. This is when the idea chosen is morphed into a tangible and visible product or service. Here quick prototyping and iteration is encouraged to call for feedback from users until the desired solution comes to life. Such phase are set in order, however that doesn’t mean that one can’t go back and forth to reassure findings and dig deeper; design thinking is a cycle.

Whats the difference between analytical thinking and design thinking?
Unlike analytical thinking, which is associated with the breaking down of ideas, design thinking is a creative process based on the building up of ideas. As Baeck & Gremett put it, “analytical approaches focus on narrowing the design choices, while design thinking focuses on going broad, at least during the early stages of the process.” Analytic decisions are great for breaking things down into smaller parts, which is necessary for a math problem. But intuition (design thinking) is about looking at patterns and wholes, which is needed when making quick decisions about whether something is real or fake, ugly or pretty, right or wrong. Testing intuition against analysis, Pratt and co-authors Erik Dane, of Rice University and Kevin W. Rockmann, of George Mason, found that people can trust their gut and rely on intuition when making a broad evaluation in an area where they have in-depth knowledge of the subject, also referred to as domain expertise. In design thinking, designers do not make any early judgments about the quality of ideas. As a result, this minimizes the fear of failure and maximizes input and participation in the ideation, brainstorming, and prototype phases. “Outside the box thinking and wild ideas” are encouraged in the early stages of the process, since this style of thinking is believed to lead to creative solutions that would not have emerged otherwise.

Are there tools we can actively use to enhance our creativity process and ideation?
Brainstorming is an effective tool, used by many. However, the trick to it is to allow people from different disciplines and backgrounds to brainstorm together, without pre-judgments and second thoughts. Brainstorming encourages the right brain to express the crazy ideas that can be bought closer to reality later on in the process. The working environment is very essential when it comes to a group of people working together to find a solution. Creativity can’t be forced is one is not at ease to express and be heard either by their college or even boss. Another trick to ideation is visuals, we are all creative people if we are given the right tools and environment to draw our ideas out.

Can you please tell us more about your upcoming workshop and the learning outcomes?
Luckily, the coming weekend, September 18, 19, and 20, I will be conducting a workshop entitled Design Thinking: The Process of Startup Success at Sirdab Lab, Dasman, in collaboration with Nuqat. Such an opportunity will allow me to share my learning and experience of using design thinking as a creative and innovative problem solving approach. It is an open workshop for everyone who would like to experience, hands-on, the power of using creative methods to learn more about the consumers needs, create and analyze a complete experience for them, test hypotheses, work in multidisciplinary groups, and most important of all HAVE A PRODUCTIVE & FUN WEEKEND. Remember design thinking is not just for those who work in the creative and marketing domain, on the contrary design thinking should be practiced by all. Today in countries Denmark, UK, and Holland, design thinking is being taught to doctors and nurses to help them design better experiences for their patients.

Whats the difference between analytical thinking and design thinking?
Unlike analytical thinking, which is associated with the breaking down of ideas, design thinking is a creative process based on the building up of ideas. As Baeck & Gremett put it, “analytical approaches focus on narrowing the design choices, while design thinking focuses on going broad, at least during the early stages of the process.” Analytic decisions are great for breaking things down into smaller parts, which is necessary for a math problem. But intuition (design thinking) is about looking at patterns and wholes, which is needed when making quick decisions about whether something is real or fake, ugly or pretty, right or wrong. Testing intuition against analysis, Pratt and co-authors Erik Dane, of Rice University and Kevin W. Rockmann, of George Mason, found that people can trust their gut and rely on intuition when making a broad evaluation in an area where they have in-depth knowledge of the subject, also referred to as domain expertise. In design thinking, designers do not make any early judgments about the quality of ideas. As a result, this minimizes the fear of failure and maximizes input and participation in the ideation, brainstorming, and prototype phases. “Outside the box thinking and wild ideas” are encouraged in the early stages of the process, since this style of thinking is believed to lead to creative solutions that would not have emerged otherwise.

A little about Yara Al Adib…
I have recently came back to Kuwait, one of the places I call home, from Milano, Italy, where I was doing my Masters in Service Design and Social Innovation at Politecnico di Milano. My stay in Europe for three years has opened my eyes to many things I didn’t previously see and comprehend when I was back at American University of Beirut studying Graphic Design. I now see beyond the graphics printed or pixels projected, today I see the meaning behind each color, layout, and choice made.

I am a multi-disciplinary designer that mixes a bit of graphic, service, product, strategy, and experience design to create a holistic and comprehensive outcome. I always start with putting myself in the shoes of the person I am designing for and from there I mix and match and test until I reach a human-centered and innovative outcome.

Yara’s Contact Information:
email: yfa06(at)aub(dot)edu(dot)lb
portfolio: be.net/YaraAlAdib

About Yara’s workshop: sirdab-lab.com/designthinking 

Snapchat Vs Facebook (Part 2): The Real Advantage Of Being A Startup

4 minute read

 

In Part 1 of the “Snapchat Vs Facebook” feature, I briefly described the scene of battle between the two companies, and how Evan Spiegel and his Snapchat team won the war.

 

But Part 1 didn’t tell the whole story. Although Snapchat’s decision to focus on a core feature set was instrumental to its success, there is another equally important strategic insight that put Snapchat on the course to grabbing market share from Facebook (and Instagram). Simply put, Evan Spiegel understood that customer perception is the only thing that mattered when it came to why a customer favored one product over another identical product that preformed the same function. The key word there is “perception”; that customer might not be right, and the company might refute any customer claims, and make a substantial effort to alter that perception. Ultimately, however, customer perception is hard to influence.

The story of another well-known startup can shed more light on the importance of customer perception. Chatroulette, a website that randomly paired people in a video chat, experienced the good and bad of customer perception.

When Chatroulette became a hit in 2009, most experts doubted that the website would take off because users would fear that the website would store the video chats, and as such there was a trust issue between users and the company (person) running the platform. However, despite what experts predicted, the site continued to grow to the point where it had thousands of daily users logging in and video chatting endlessly.

How did Chatroulette gain the trust of users so quickly? It didn’t. Chatroulette had poor design, shady exterior, and a primitive interface. As such, users thought the website’s runner lacked the technical ability and prowess to store user information or videos. The customer perception was that this website is so basic that there is no way it was set up to source videos, hack their cameras, or infringe on their cyber privacy.

Ultimately, however, user perception changed. People started to perceive Chatroulette as a dangerous and unregulated outlet for perverted individuals. That perception lived on for too long, and by the time Chatroulette installed methods and regulations (banning explicit material and so on), it was already too late. Chatroulette user engagement dropped dramatically, and the website eventually faded into oblivion.

In Facebook’s case, Evan Spiegel understood that after seven years of global popularity, the social network was no longer a small startup operating out of a living room. Facebook has become a multi-billion dollar cooperation, with powerful means and capabilities. In that light, customers now perceived Facebook as a “big-brother” type of website that stored and leveraged user data for advertisement, and, perhaps, more. It is not uncommon to hear people talk about Facebook as a sort of “intelligence” operation with strong ties to the CIA and FBI (mainly, that Facebook was providing governments with private information disclosed by users).

While there is no evidence of such ties or any “spying” activities, Facebook continuously refutes these claims and unremittingly publicizes a thorough privacy policy. However, these efforts could not overcome the stronghold of customer perception.

Spiegel understood that Facebook Poke (Facebook’s answer to Snapchat) would not succeed because customers could not trust that Facebook wouldn’t “steal” ephemeral pictures and messages. Unsurprisingly, Snapchat came out with a strong, clear, and simple policy: “We do not store pictures, videos, or messages anywhere”.

Snapchat was new; there was no prior customer perception to fight and overcome. It could create and shape the way users viewed the company and the app, and it did that successfully.

As mentioned in the conclusion of part 1, Evan Spiegel understood that he had won the war with Facebook before it had even started. A more accurate analysis is that Facebook had entered a war it simply could not win.

 

Slice of Advice

As a startup, the biggest advantage you have is that you are completely new to customers. Understand how your customers perceive the competition (both negatively and positively), and assess any advantages to be gained from that perception.

 

Announcing: StartupQ8 Event for August

The next StartupQ8 Event is on Monday August 11. This month we wanted to focus on bringing you lessons that benefit you, and think we found something good. 

The first segment will feature Dan Clarke, Director of Search at Caliber, who will share his insight into developing effective organic digital marketing strategies. He will discuss creating effective SEO campaigns and content.

Also, we’re pleased to welcome frequent contributor and founding partner of SmallQ8, Hashim Behbehani. He will talk about the three lessons you need to learn to get to your startup’s goal. As always,Global Investment House has graciously agreed to host the talk.

See you guys Monday August 11 at 7:30 pm!

Schedule:

7:30 – 8:10 Organic Digital Marketing feat. Dan Clarke
8:10 – 8:20 Mini-break
8:20 – 9:00 A Startup’s Goal feat. Hashim Behbehani
9:00 – 9:30 Networking feat. pizza

As always, the event will be in English and it is open to everyone. Register on our Meetup.com page and we will remind you about it.

See you there..

This Might Be the Solution for Crashed Planes!

With many planes crashing all around the world, I was wondering if there is a better way to save people lives onboard. So I thought to myself “when a military jet get hit, the pilot can jump from the plane using the ejecting seat with the parachute.”

 

Can we use a similar technique for civilian planes?

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 3.57.27 AM

What do you think?

Snapchat Vs Facebook (Part 1): One Lesson You Should Never Forget

2.5 minute read

 

22 year old Evan Spiegel, Snapchat’s co-founder and CEO, walked into a privately arranged apartment in his hometown of Los Angeles at the invitation of Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg had invited Spiegel to sit with him after Snapchat, the disappearing photo-messaging app, had gained noticeable and significant traction since its launch in early 2011.

For the most part of the meeting, Mark tried to get Evan to talk about the vision and long term future of Snapchat. He wanted to listen, not talk. He wanted to feel out his potential competitor, perhaps to measure how hard the punch he was about to deliver had to be. Evan talked, but was cautious, revealing very few details and keeping his cards close to his chest. When the meeting seemed over, Mark told Evan about a new app Facebook was launching: Facebook Poke, a clone and direct competitor of Snapchat. It was an intimidation strategy meant to pressure Evan into accepting an early offer from Mark before the Facebook CEO had even made it. But Evan didn’t fold; he refused to engage in any buyout talks, and left the meeting.*

18 months later, Facebook Poke was dead. Facebook offered to buy Snapchat for $3 billion (cash), and Snapchat subsequently rejected.

So how did Snapchat win the war? And what made Evan Spiegel so confident in his product that he was willing to turn down Facebook, twice?

Here’s the answer:

Up until its last major update in May, Snapchat had a singular, narrow, and focused core feature: send disappearing images to select friends. When I asked Snapchat users what the app did, their answer was consistent and to the point: “you send an image to a friend and it disappears in a few seconds”. There was no “and you can do this” or “and you can do that”. Focusing on a single feature that drives a value proposition is a great way to grab and grow a loyal customer base. In business terms, it is an effective strategy for securing significant market share.

Snapchat’s technology is not proprietary. It is easily clone-able and can even be done better. In fact, Facebook Poke had superior real time engagement speed and smoother UX. But once a product has attracted a loyal user base around a single core feature, any clone, no matter how technologically superior, will find it hard to grab market share.

It must have been tempting for Snapchat’s founders in the beginning to think “That’s it? That’s all our app does? Why not add a chat feature? Or video? Or a feed?” And those features did eventually come, but only after the app had dominated the space of ephemeral messaging. A well-built core feature acts as a foundation on which to build other innovative features at a later stage.

Evan Spiegel understood that he had a cohesive product with loyal users increasing in number by the second. So when he walked into that apartment to meet Zuckerberg, Evan knew he had already won the war with Facebook before it had even started.

Slice of Advice

Most startups get obsessed with the idea of building an app that “does it all”. They end up building a bundle of “adequate” features instead of a coherent and cohesive product that does one or two things extremely well. A focused feature set is a magnet for a loyal customer base, and that customer base will become your biggest defense barrier against clones and new comers.

*Source: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2457866,00.asp

3 Lessons Startups Can Learn From the World Cup

One of the most exciting World Cups in recent memory came to a conclusion earlier this week. Here are three lessons startups can take from the biggest tournament in the world:

 

Lesson One: Teams, not star individuals, create success

The 2014 World Cup showcased a stark contrast between teams that played as a cohesive unit, and teams that were built around a superstar player (Neymar’s Brazil, Ronaldo’s Portugal, Messi’s Argentina). When Germany won the tournament, there was a consensus that the Germans played as a well-orchestrated team that was organized, disciplined, and gelled to perfection. Germany did not have a superstar player. What they did have was a team with complementary skills that highlighted their strengths and overshadowed any weakness.

From afar, successful startups might look like they were the magnificent work of an individual or two. We idolize the Brins, Pages, Jobses, Gateses, Zuckerbergs, and Musks of the startup universe. But in truth, any founder of a successful company would tell you that the founding team is the single most crucial factor in the success of a company. A founder could be a genius computer scientist, or a seasoned entrepreneur, or a remarkable businessman. But that won’t matter if that founder doesn’t have a team around him/ her that are on the same wave length; that share one vision, communicate effectively, and, most importantly, have attributes and skills that complement each other. That sort of team is formidable and, with the right leadership, is destined for success. (Recommended reading: The Founder’s Dilemma, by Noam Wasserman)

 

Lesson Two: Being the underdog can be your biggest advantage

This tournament provided several underdog stories in which “minnow” teams knocked out “bigger” teams. The most incredible fairy-tale run was that of Costa Rica. Costa Rica were put in a group that included three previous World Cup winners who were expected to battle for first and second in the group while lowly Costa Rica fulfilled its role as the proverbial punching bag. But that wasn’t the case. Costa Rica won the Group outright without a single loss, beat Greece in the Round of 16, and lost in a very close quarter final to the Netherlands on penalties.

Like any underdog, Costa Rica had nothing to lose, and they played liked it. They were not afraid to take the game to the bigger teams, and played without any nerves.

Any startup, by definition, is an underdog. A startup is small, but flexible. It has minimal financing, but nothing to lose. It doesn’t have thousands of employees, but has a dedicated team with heart. Every successful startup realized that they were “Davids” that had to hustle (and hustle) below the radar before knocking out the “Goliaths” of industry. Goliath, remember, never saw that slingshot coming. (Recommended reading: David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell)

 

Lesson Three: If it isn’t working, make a change

It was the 76’th minute of the quarter final. Holland were trailing 1-0 to Mexico, and unable to create any real chances. The Dutch were running out of ideas and seemed incapable of penetrating the Mexican defense. Then Holland’s Manager, Van Gaal, makes a change by taking off his star striker, Van Persie, and bringing on young striker Klaas Huntelaar. It was move that baffled pundits and fans. But immediately, Huntelaar’s different style of play caused Mexico huge problems. That change allowed Holland to play with different tactics and have a more potent attacking threat; and it paid off. The Dutch side scored twice in 5 minutes to win 2-1 (the winning goal in the very last minute scored by, you guessed it, Huntelaar).

There are numerous other examples in this World Cup of managers making bold changes to great success. For a startup, this equates to iterations or pivots. Most startups have to go through a journey of evolution before finding product-market fit. But that journey will only commence once the founders are willing to make significant and fundamental changes if their concept fails to generate any real demand from customers. A smart startup tries to learn the weaknesses and strengths of its value proposition, and initiates changes that play towards those strengths.

 

 

Interview with the SEO Expert

As promised, this is an interview with one of the SEO experts, Ian from Caliber. We’ve been working with Caliber for more than 4 months now and I must say they are very professional. We got introduced to them by one of our advisors, he tried more than 3 agencies and he said they are the best. I believe they are.

Below is my interview with Ian Humphreys, regional director of Caliber. Caliber specializes in SEO and has an office in Dubai.

Ian

Caliber

Tell us a bit about Caliber?

Caliber is an organic marketing agency with offices in Dubai, London and Edinburgh. We work with some of the world’s biggest brands including Tesco, Orbitz, Expedia, Thomson Airways and Ticketmaster. We’ve worked in MENA for several years with brands such as HSBC and the American University of Sharjah. I started working with Caliber in 2010 as a copywriter and later led the creative department out of our Edinburgh office. I moved to Dubai in 2013 to co-found our MENA office.

What is SEO?

SEO, or search engine optimization, is a marketing activity focused upon ensuring that your target audience discovers your business through natural search listings (i.e. not paid ads). This breaks down into two activities:

a. Creating content that will be shared, linked to and read by internet users

b. Ensuring your website provides a good user experience and demonstrates that to search engines Businesses need to execute both of these activities in order to increase the amount of conversions (sales, leads etc.) they generate through the internet.

Why is SEO important?

Every day in MENA there are over 100 million Google searches. And in Kuwait there are 2.7 million internet users, 930,000 of whom transact online. Millions of consumers use the internet to search for products and purchase them. If your website does not rank well for commonly searched terms, you are losing the opportunity to engage with a whole group of customers. Any company with a website needs to invest in SEO to engage this digitally savvy audience. Otherwise you are ignoring an incredibly powerful modern marketing tool.

What are three most important things businesses can do to improve their SEO?

The three most important things to boost your organic traffic (via SEO) are:

1. Invest in quality content. Search engines and customers love high quality content, especially copy

2. Ensure your site is well optimized technically and has been audited by a top- class technical SEO team

3. Invest in online marketing that will get people talking about your brand and linking to it from their own websites

 

What are three common mistakes people make in SEO?

It’s very easy to go wrong in SEO. Though the basic principles are simple, the means of executing them are complex and best practice changes quickly as search engines evolve.

The three most common mistakes are:

1. Signing up with one of the many bargain basement SEO companies. These agencies often guarantee results by pointing a mass of links from low- quality websites at your domain. This leads to short-term results but can irrevocably poison your site. These companies are cheap, but you’re ultimately paying them to burn down your website.

2. Duplicate content.

Many websites have hundreds (or even thousands) of pages that display the exact same content—this is a negative signal to search engines and can make you vulnerable to penalties via Google algorithm updates such as the Panda update.

The Panda update is an algorithmic change designed to penalize websites that offer little unique content.

3. Assuming developers know how to execute SEO. Developers and SEOs speak the same language but they are different disciplines. We consistently turn up issues that slip past developers, yet cripple a company’s efforts to attract traffic via organic search.

Why SEO is so difficult? Do you need a professional to do it?

If you adopt the wrong course of action you can create enormous, irreparable problems. This is compounded as SEO is constantly evolving, so you need to understand how the landscape has changed and in which direction search engines are evolving. Unless you are a specialist you’ll need to hire a professional. It’s too easy to make a simple error that can cripple your website.

How can you know a good SEO advisor/company from a bad one?

Transparency is crucial in the world of SEO. If an SEO company guarantees you results but doesn’t tell you how they will achieve them, run the other way. No one can truly ensure specific outcomes, and agencies should be honest about the tactics they are going to use to boost your performance. Also be sure to investigate what type of companies your advisor/agency works with. Good companies tend to work with global brands.

Does Caliber work with startups? What products and pricing do you offer?

Although Caliber’s background is with enterprise clients, we work with a variety of start-
ups across the Middle East including TravelerVIP, YaDig and FishFishMe. We lead their digital marketing offerings and focus upon SEO, content creation and social media consultancy. We love investing time in start-ups, provided they are serious about digital marketing and have a robust business plan. We offer a premium service so our pricing is at the higher end of the scale, but the expertise of our staff is unmatched in this market.

Memorize the secret code before it’s too late!

If you are watching the world cup then I’m sure you saw this sign below:

The secret code

I always wondered what’s this code and what does it mean, and no one seems to have an answer! After doing lots of thinking and connecting the dots I believe I found the explanation for this secret code.

This code is sent by aliens and they will come later in the near future and conquer the world. They will ask you one question “what’s the code?” If you don’t know the answer they will kill you or keep you as a slave, if you know it then you are safe. They send these signs in global events were everyone in the world is watching, so that there are no excuses. You better memorize them before it’s too late!

alien signsThe old alien signs, not effective anymore

Thats my explanation, if you have a better one let me know!

What is SEO? – Podcast

This is our latest podcast. I made some changes according to the feedback I got from the previous post. The podcast is now in English and I covered SEO (was shocked that people liked the AdWords podcast). OK, hope you’ll like it:

Customer Feedback is Oxygen

The customer might not always be right, but the customer is always worth listening to.

 

Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram, attributes the success of the photo sharing application to one simple factor: listening to customer feedback.

 

Before Instagram, there was Burbn, a “check-in service” application. It was a slightly different version of Foursquare, but with the ability to upload and share photos live from a location. While working on Burbn, Systrom was relentless about talking to users and drawing feedback in order to understand the value and “best use” scenario for their customer base. The extensive qualitative and quantitative feedback analysis conducted by the Burbn team lead them to discover a curious pattern: most users of the application seemed to use it in order to share photos, rather than “check in” and share their location.

 

Armed with this information, Systrom “left the building” in order to grab real commentary from actual users in order to understand how the application can better serve as a photo sharing service. After numerous customer interviews and analysis, Systrom came to a conclusion that would become the basis to Instagram’s success and hyper growth:

 

People wanted to share photos quickly from their smartphone, but photos taken on mobile simply didn’t look beautiful.

 

Hence, the infamous photo filters were born. Keep in mind, at that time (2009), smartphone cameras took poor quality photos that rarely looked good. The “filters” solved this problem, and allowed users to share beautiful photos instantly from their mobile.

 

Eventually, Burbn became Instagram, which recorded 25 thousand users in its first day of release.

 

In retrospect, what Systrom and his team discovered might seem obvious. However, only with an incessant approach to soliciting and analyzing customer feedback could the Instagram/ Burbn team have realized how widespread the problem was. Customer comments also put the Instagram team on the right track to building a feature set that tackled actual problems faced by their users.

 

Customer feedback is oxygen. It breathes life into a dying startup, and can help the startup ignite into a fire of hyper growth.

 

Slice of Advice

In order to build something that people want and use, you have to listen to those people. Don’t lock yourself in the office and assume you have an intuitive understanding of who your customers are and what they want. Leave the building, and listen carefully to comments from real users. It’s the only way you’ll build something worth anything to anyone.

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