Thursday, November 01, 2012

Spicy with Beans

Given the choice of choosing something that is known versus unknown, people tend to avoid the mystery item and go with the known.

Case in point: We had our annual neighborhood Halloween party and a few of us provided food (hot dogs and chili) and snacks. My wife cooked a very tasty chili, but it was quite spicy so I wanted to let people who had sensitive palates know that. I made a very simple sign that read "Spicy Chili (beef and bean)." I also included the two primary ingredients in case we had Texas purists at the party who insist real chili has no beans in it.

I like beans in my chili. Screw the rules. I was raised in Buffalo, New York anyway, so I don't get hung up on that "Real Texan" crap. But I digress, let's get back to the anecdote.

There were three slow cookers on the table containing chili and ours was the only one with the paper sign sticking out from under it stating what it was. Now all of these had glass tops and all were right next to each other. There was no doubt that each contained chili and none was harder to dig into than the others, but an hour later, one was nearly empty—ours.

The chili to the left was partially eaten and the one to the right barely touched, but our chili in the middle was down to the Crock in the Pot. Instead of scaring people off with the "spicy" alert, my sign gave them a feeling of confidence that they were going to get chili with beef and beans in it and a bit of a kick.

Obviously the beans didn't scare people off, which means there are plenty of fake Texans in our neighborhood as well.

My experience tells me that this goes for most things in life—including the products or services sold by software companies. Given the choice of buying software that is a mystery or one that the website makes obvious what it contains, people choose the known most every time. That's why many of us tend to frequent the same restaurants or watch movies we've seen before. It's safer going with what we know.

So look at your website and advertising to make sure you're being clear about what it is people are purchasing. Warning people that your software is very spicy and has beans might just be what makes them click the "Buy Now" button.


Monday, July 16, 2012

The Elephant in the Room

My apologies for the blog coma, but I'm coming out of it and will be posting on a much more frequent basis starting today.

My vegetative state started in late 2010 when I was swamped with MoneyWell 2.0 design and coding. I could have snapped out of it sooner if it weren't for the elephant in the room giving me the stink eye.

MoneyWell 2.0 was an ambitious project and one that I didn't control and execute well. Writing about mistakes and failures is part of this blog, but I wasn't comfortable doing a postmortem on it as it neared the end of development or even after it shipped. All I wanted to do was fix any mistakes I had made.

I guess I could have blogged about other things, but I wasn't inspired to write about general company activity while there was this huge beast in the office that needed to be discussed. Pretending it wasn't there simply didn't work for me.

We have passed a milestone though and MoneyWell 2.1 is awaiting approval by Apple so we can ship it. We also have redesigned our support, tutorials, and help pages on our website to include proper tutorial videos and instructional information about MoneyWell 2.1. Hopefully this will heal some wounds that we caused by shipping 2.0 without the proper training materials.

We also have some new projects started, which are moving very quickly thanks to our new, full-time designer, Dan Hauk. I can't wait to show you what we're building, but I also can't talk about any of it either because pre-announcing products and features was one of my many MoneyWell 2.0 mistakes.

Stay tuned for future blog posts. I'll push through my personal embarrassment and give you the scoop on all that has happened during that project. My hope is that any developers reading this will avoid the same mistakes and save themselves some pain.