Celebrate the Passionates

Passionates know things that those struggling with your software don’t. So, when working on your next project and you’re looking for improvement, don’t forget the passionates!

As a consultant, I am often in the role of critic when I begin working with a new client. My job is to find out what is wrong, what isn’t working, and suggest ways that it could be better.

I’m fine with this because for folks who live in the trenches, objective, critical feedback is valuable. I’m still surprised at how strong the expert blindness is on certain projects: the people who have built the software are so expert in it that they can’t see even the most obvious issues right in front of them. When I point something out, such as a weak call to action, oftentimes my client will say “of course, why didn’t I see that”. But there is a very good reason they didn’t see it…they are so far ahead in their thinking on the project that they haven’t circled back to consider such simple details. And, to be fair, I miss some of those things on my own projects after I’ve been working on them too long.

We live in a critical world. We have critics for everything. And it’s easy, once you’ve been given the role of critic, to sit back and be critical all the time. Certainly there is enough to be critical about! Design is not easy and there are usability and interaction design holes all over the place. You can’t take more than a couple steps on the Web without finding something irritating, annoying, or just plain broken.

But in this culture of criticism it is easy to forget your successes. Who is using your software and loving it? Why are they so excited about it? How are they doing so well when some people can’t even grok what your product is about?

Celebrate the passionates. Talk to them, find out what they get really passionate about. Make it a part of your ongoing test plan. Seriously…regularly work into your feedback loops a good investigation into your passionate users.

I’ve found that talking to passionates can be counter-intuitive. I was working on a project recently and talking to a passionate user who went on and on about how this software was so much better because it didn’t have a feature the competitors had…he really hated that feature. It turns out that this was shocking to the design team because they assumed they were behind their competitor in this regard. But talking to a passionate led them to consider what it might mean to segment the market based on that feature…were there other people like him? Was there a market for a smaller, simpler piece of software that didn’t try to do everything?

Passionates know things that those struggling with your software don’t. So, when working on your next project and you’re looking for improvement, don’t forget the passionates. Celebrate them!

Published: July 21st, 2009

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