Abhishek Anand

@abyshake

I’m okay with pissing off my users, and you should be too.

July 20th 2017

You can’t make them all happy, but where do you draw the line?

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This is, in particular, aimed at those early stages of your business we are all too familiar with. The time when you are planning on the next steps. To take your business from an idea to a success.

We think too much. All of us. Yes, I’m including myself.

What all features should we include in our product?
What more can we do?
Oooh. I can’t believe we were forgetting this.

Take your pick. We have all been there.

I say, NO MORE. It’s time to take action without endless thought process.

Please don’t make the mistake of replacing endless thought process with no thought process whatsoever though. That’s just a recipe for disaster.

After we have talked about our idea, our business, our product a couple dozen times, we get to a point where we know how this particular challenge needs to be dealt with. Or at least, how we need to take those first few steps. What happens after that is what results in delaying your launch by a few months. We start thinking of ‘what more should we do’.

That, that my friends, is an endless loop. You’ll never get to the sweet spot, and even if you do, you’ll be off by at least a few dozen basis points.

  • You would make the mistake of ‘knowing what’s best for your consumers
  • You would make the mistake of listening to everyone who comes up with a suggestion — an added feature.
  • You would make the fatal mistake of complicating your product.
  • You would make the holy grail of all mistakes. Investing way too much time. Time that you do not have.

So what do you do?

It’s simple. Get back to the basics!

WE ALL START WITH ZERO CUSTOMERS

I love throwing quotes around. Not your typical inspirational quotes in general, but something that has touched me, or made me think of things in a different light. So much so that I once used lines from Alice in Wonderland in one of my Quora answers.

Read my answer here

I use many quotes that are my own (thank you thank you, you’re so kind). Unfortunately this is not one of those times. But this IS a quote I use a lot.

Rome wasn’t built in a day… but they were laying bricks every hour.

That quote is powerful for a number of reasons, most important of which is the power that consistency in your work brings about.

But. That is not what we are here to talk about today, are we? So, let’s get down to it.

It doesn’t matter in how many days Rome was built; the point is — at the very beginning, it would have been a pile of dirt. A patch of land that was just that. Land. They made into something worth living and be proud of.

We all start with a sumtotal audience size of zero.

And we try to start bringing our audience one by one. If you are doing your job right, you will have a few hundred users in a few weeks. But, given the fact that you were, and still are, aiming for the stars, I would say you are a few hundred thousand (if not millions) users short. Isn’t it? You will get there, sure. But as it stands today, you are way far away from your goal.

So. What do you have to lose?

The fear that you have. The fear that your users will be pissed if your product doesn’t do all these things. The fear that makes you build a product that does everything short of making you walk on water. That fear is meaningless, isn’t it?

First of all, going in, you can’t be sure whether your audience would be pissed at the absence of that jazzy, snazzy feature you think of as crucial.

Second, even if they do feel that way, not all of them would be pissed; some of them would be fine with it, some won’t even feel the need to have it, some will be indifferent to its absence — only a certain percentage of users would be pissed, if any. Business is, at many times, all about numbers and percentages. Sure, you would want to have this percentage as low as possible, but remember — even if it is high, the absolute number would still be this high percentage component of a very low base (few hundred users). And I am fine with pissing off this small number, for the sheer trade-off of valuable user feedback (implicit or otherwise). The fact that this also helped me shave off many weeks off of my development cycle is a bonus.

HATRED IS AN ABSOLUTE TRUTH

They say the only two absolute truths in life are death and taxes.

I disagree. The hatred of your audience (or at least a strong negative sentiment) is another. I don’t remember what the last major redesign of Facebook was all about, or when did that happen. What I do remember, however, is that the last few times Facebook did a major design overhaul, there was a whole shitstorm clogging up my news feed. People hated the change, and they were venting out. And they were venting out about the change in facebook, on facebook, using facebook. Great!

Take any change you can think of. Whether it is as simple as Uber changing its logo from the all familiar U to the ‘whatever-it-is-now’, or a product changing its whole interface. People almost always hate it.

You have gotta do what you gotta do in the best interest of your business, and your consumers. Even if it isn’t always apparent. Stay on the course, face the backlash, and evaluate and re-evaluate data to see the meaningfulness or meaninglessness of your decision. Don’t panic. Stay calm.

USERS COME BACK. THEY ALWAYS DO

The obvious catch being in the ability of you and your product doing a great job. But users do come back. Always.

We talked about people hating the facebook design change. They did so for a couple of days. The more enthusiastic and loud ones stayed at it for a week or so. Eventually it was business as usual. The loud ones retreated to their desks to silently stalk their the facebook profile of their ex-girlfriends. The others, they just carried on.

Even if you lost some of those few hundred users you had, if your product is onto something, they will come back. Sooner or later, they will. And at that time, they will come back for good.

USER FEEDBACK. THAT’S THE HOLY GRAIL

But your users won’t give it to you. Most of them won’t. And even when they do, it would be to criticize things in general. The user feedback I am talking about here would be derived from data. Looking at the usage pattern, understanding what components of your product are your users interacting with, and what components are putting them off.

Data doesn’t lie. People do.

Trust in data.

So go ahead. Piss off a user or two. You would be doing them a favor. And they would be getting pissed for a greater cause. Development of a product that’s loved by all.

Shorter deployment cycles, yet a better product.

That’s it for today; see you tomorrow.

I am Abhishek. I am here... there.... Everywhere...
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