In the summer of 2007 Drew, a recent MIT grad, started knocking on doors in Silicon Valley planning to raise money for his startup idea. The idea was for a backup and synchronization tool that would automatically store copies of your files in the cloud and let you access them from via a web browser.
One of the most common questions potential investors asked Drew was, “Why are you building another backup service?”
A number of other services providing basically the same features already existed at the time from well-established companies like Microsoft, Carbonite, Box… the list goes on. So, again,
“Why are you building another backup service?”
He would respond with a question: “Well, do you use any of those services?”
Nine times out of ten, the answer was no.
“I intend to change that,” he would say.
Few people were using the other services because they were not easy to use. And, while they may have had the core features people wanted: they were not simple; they were not beautiful. Where everyone else saw a crowded market, Drew saw an opportunity.
And so Drew Houston went ahead and created anotherstorage service company, despite all of those incumbents. Today, that company – Dropbox – has over 500 million users.
Why? Because it’s easy, works automatically, and it looks good. In short, it delivers outstanding user experience – and user experience, on some level, is everything.
When envisioning new products, it’s easy to come up with a list of features that the new product needs to have. It’s critical that the developers use this feature list as a guide – but that the features themselves does not become the objective.
The objective must be focused on the user and the user’s experience – not the product. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry comes to mind:
“…perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away…”
Let’s take a look at two competing cell phones from 2008: