Building Apps From the Echo Chamber

A few days ago myself and another were providing our thoughts and insight into a mockup that someone had created for a product they’re working on. At my first glance I noticed it and said wow, that looks pretty awesome. It wasn’t until a few minutes in that someone else said, if we all like this, you’re probably doing something wrong. Meaning that, we’re tech geeks, we’re silicon valley to a T, we like control and power, we like having the ability to set notification levels for every friend we have, for every minute of the day. But middle-america doesn’t use those features, much less they don’t use any products that have those features.

This quickly got us back to the question, who are you targetting, is it middle-america house wives, silicon valley geeks, busy executives. In any application that should always be your starting point. I’ll likely have much more on this piece later, but jumping back to the echo chamber users.

Probably the easiest way to illustrate this is twitter vs. friendfeed. Robert Scoble has said many many times FriendFeed is so much better, so much more than twitter. The biggest problem is that I can’t explain friend feed to my mom. I can explain twitter and she gets it. She can log in to twitter and understand it. Friendfeed there’s far to much a user has to do to get comfortable with it.

Any new mainstream application that launches should do everything transparent to the user. In that the application should seem like it’s almost doing nothing, it should be magic under the covers. A user should have to search to find the ability to configure it, you should gather information on your user, and make assumptions on what they want. If you get it even 50% right you’re likely to retain and engage more users than allowing them the ability to configure exactly what they want.