Do You Want Your Dog Sliced Or Diced?

Yep, sounds pretty cruel, doesn’t it? The title of this post, I mean. Another real live event that has a wonderful Segway into our trusted world of IT. Just wait and see. By the way, the dog is sliced, but is doing perfectly fine. I already provide this spoiler before some of you maybe absolutely grossed out.

Anyway. It was Saturday, and I woke up into a white Eastern Pennsylvania. Crap. Look, I love seasons, and I love the winter, and a good winter should have snow. And this year, snow has been pretty absent. Fine, less snow shoveling.

Even the snow-shoveling I do not mind. But, when my wife and I fell in love with this corner lot house, we did not realize that it came with a whole lot of pavement that we need to keep clear in the winter. Grrrr. And it takes a lot of shoveling to even get to the pavement. So even though it was only a lousy 2 inches of snow, growling I made my way outside to start my chore. And without hesitation, our dog, a hyperactive little almost Fox Terrier Brand blasted outside to fool around in the snow. And that dog loves to be outside, barking at anyone with another dog.

So, when I was shoveling, I suddenly hear this whining noise coming from the other side of the house, and I made my way there again. And there he was, sitting in front of the gate of the fence, wagging its tail, the snow like a scene from Dexter. Blood everywhere. I got him inside, and tried and successfully cleaned the wounds, stop the bleeding and repair and fix the little guy. But what I was amazed about is actually, how much a dog wants to keep pleasing you as his or her owner… he was looking at me really like saying:

“Ehmmm… hi there, please… if you might have the time… and it is not of any inconvenience… can you please, please please pay a bit of attention to… well… me? Your trusted pal? Your favorite dog? Please?”

What happened was that my faithful One in his excitement and – I guess blinded by the snow – decided to run through a window. Nice.

And this is what I was so surprised about. A dog is like most websites. And I mean it! Being there, willing to please you at any cost, even if you are in danger. Me, personally, being in a sort-like situation would try to intimidate the heck out of you to call an ambulance. Maybe also not the 100% right approach, but well, it is me on the line then. But a dog, so polite, will not.

And most sites, more often than not, are really doing exactly the same thing. Bending with what readers might want to see, to keep getting visitors. To keep people getting happy. And this is something I do not really understand. Shouldn’t a site be succesful simply because for what it stands for? That people like the site simply because it provides what they are looking for, instead of trying to kiss up so much?

I often appreciate producers of any kind of media production who just go their own way. Sure, you definitely should listen a bit to feedback, and appreciate the input, but it doesn’t mean that you have to follow-up on every little bit of feedback that you receive. It is YOUR production, not the one of your visitors. It would be more or less asking your children what they want to eat for dinner and always make what they demand. As a parent, you know that that is not correct. And for the same reason, following up everything that users and visitors tell you, is also not a wise idea.

I have been studying Interaction and Usability design and have now been working in this field for – yipes! – almost 20 years now (yeah yeah, I cheated one and a half-year there) and I know a lot ( I will never say I know everything… simply, well, because I don’t.) about usability research and how to handle results of such research. For example, if you research a certain method of interaction, record only that. Any additional information, like advice, should always be treated separately from the issue.

Now, pleasing your visitors and customers is important. But do it with what makes you unique. Don’t let the user become the editor and designer of the project you have started because you had the idea you could deliver something unique. Something that others did not have or were able to deliver. If you always bend to input from users, your product can be good, but never become more than completely average. It is a dangerous pitfall, especially if you have a product that is failing, or just fading away.

But isn’t that the natural way of things? Even productions? What is hip and succesful now will fade away one time. Look at MySpace, and before that, Orkut. Sure, they are around, but hardly with the brilliance they had before. Games, information sites.

Focus on what you are good at.

A wonderful example here is, I think, Apple. If you have read my blog for a bit longer, you know I am not a fan of this company, although I like most of their products. But halfway through the ’90s Apple was not even the shadow anymore of its former glory. With the return of Steve Jobs, it was not so much that he came up with all the new things – because many of the great jobs were already being designed and/or produced at that time, but it was he who knew how to bring the focus back.

I actually appreciate how Steve went his own way with things, and how he could p*ss people off by doing so and ignoring advice. And believe me, as many of you know, he has done some stubborn things. But he knew what made Apple, Apple. And he knew that so well, that he dared to push that through, all the way. And with that; he saved Apple and turned it to become one of the biggest IT companies.

Stay true to what you want to do and what you are good at. Once you have it being lived through others, it will be hard to get the passion back into it that made it so unique in the first place.

Now, of course, what if your product did not fly from the start? If it is not due to a lack of audience, then it might be that your production might simply not be so interesting to the public as you had hoped, which is with the majority of any kind of production. It would be better to start over with something different. But a failing production being changed by user feedback might still not take care of the core of the problems.

Ah, well…

How do I explain this to my dog? I like him to be like this, instead of planting his jaws into my leg to get attention 😉

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