The Last 20 Percent
It is what separates the exceptional from the good. Many are content with being good and stop there. Only a few actually go beyond good. And fewer actually believe and get it.
I am a user interface designer and I have worked with iPhones and Android phones when designing mobile applications for both platforms. I had a Samsung Galaxy S, the best Android phone of its time and an iPhone 4. The Samsung is a really good phone, otherwise it wouldn’t be so popular. But it is only an eighty-percent phone. Samsung stopped at eighty percent because that is all that it needs to be to generate a handsome profit. Any more investments into the product would only bring diminishing returns. The iPhone 4 on the other hand is closer to one hundred percent. Apple had invested more than Samsung to bridge that last twenty percent to create the best possible user experience and satisfaction.
With the Super AMOLED display on the Galaxy S, Samsung is pursuing power-efficiency and better response times. Whereas with the Retina Display, Apple is trying to eliminate pixels and create display resolutions akin to print. The Galaxy S uses a molded plastic shell whereas the iPhone 4 has a cleverly-designed stainless steel frame which doubles as antennas sandwiched between aircraft grade glass. The Android software that runs on the Galaxy S also has an eighty-percent user interface. Its multi-touch physics many complain to be unnatural. The visual proportions of interface elements on Android hardly follows any kind of design principles. It is on the other hand quite evident that typography and visual proportions are important considerations in the iOS interface and iPhone 4 hardware. I can list more but it’s not necessary as few would argue the iPhone is better-considered.
As a user interface designer, I strive to go beyond eighty percent. There are both Samsungs and Apples among my clients. I try hard to articulate the benefits of the last twenty percent to all my clients. I tell them how most companies are eighty-percent companies making eighty-percent products. Then I tell them how investing in the last twenty-percent is about investing in emotional engagement with their customers while the rest are competing with features and missing the point, is going to make their products stand out. This communication has to take place with people in the company who care. They are usally founders and the CEO but I’ve seen passionate product managers and even engineers.
I recently had the pleasure of working with ViKi – a video fan-subbing community and platform where I catch my favorite weekly episodes of Birdie Buddy. In the iPhone app I helped design, one of the improvements I made was to subtitle progress indicators which showed how much of a video had been subtitled in a particular language. The original design used color-coded discs. I added the pie graph for added information density. Although it was more engineering work, Razmig (CEO) and Mela (product manager) totally understood how much more useful this can be for the user and supported the idea. The app is currently under development.
All these are merely nice principles to be forgotten unless you the product owner get it and mean it. Do you care about your customers? Do you want people to be happy? Are you in the business of making money or are you also in the business of creating value?
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