build an ugly, unsafe product

If you’re targeting mass consumers with a new technology*, then scrap together something useful. Solve an obvious problem in a smart way that’s never been done before. Or find a subtle problem and be the first to solve it. We don’t mind jumping a few hurdles. It’s all right if you give us Courier font upon a black-and-white interface. We don’t even care how you store our data. Just solve our problem well.

Here are four reasons Boring Barry and Average Anne won’t try your product:

Because it’s pretty. The prettiest pie returns to the refrigerator if it tastes like cardboard this holiday season.

Because it’s safe. So the Geeksquad guy saved digital photos from your failed hard drive-turned-brick? Congratulations: you will care about safety for a few months. Protection, fraud, and the overwhelming urge to back everything up – these are not top-of-mind for most consumers. Of course, ignoring basic safety principles gives us a reason not to try your product. But we won’t pay attention just because you’re safe.

Because it’s loaded with features. Our attention spans are getting shorter. We’ll listen if you address a timely need. Once we know you and like you, a tiny fraction of us will tinker with your bells and whistles. I doubt we’ll pay you for them. (The features.)

Because TechCrunch wrote about it. Some Silicon Valley elites found you and a few thousand people will check you out. They’ll check out anything once. We never received a check from Dave McClure and frankly we don’t read much. But we still have a problem that needs to be solved.

*If you’re not selling into a mass consumer audience or not providing a technology solution, then these guidelines may be unsuitable. We’ll examine other markets in future posts.

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