Friday, January 24, 2014

respecting the user

Of all the qualities required in the leader of a product, there is one that I think is most important.  This quality is more important than people management or communication or fundraising ability or technical knowledge.

The quality is a deep understanding of the user.  The leader should have an intuitive knowledge of how the user thinks, what they read or watch, how they make decisions.

Therefore, the worst sign is when a leader makes fun of their users.  For example, on some games, the most hardcore users will spend 30, 40 hours per week playing the game.  Some leaders will actually mock these users.  They'll say "these users have no social life".  Or in enterprise software, the leader mocks the hardcore purchasers for being bureaucratic, like the manager in Office Space.  For a flash shopping site, I've heard the leader refer to their power users as "housewives with too much time on their hands".

So far I've seen a correlation between leaders who make fun of their most hardcore users and decreasing userbase over time.  Any time I heard a leader say that their most fervent user "has no life", I assume the product is doomed.  If you don't deeply respect your user, how can you build a great product for them?

The saddest is when a founder who understood their user is replaced in later years by a CEO who mocks the user.

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