I read a great blog this morning: Gmail’s Humble Beginning . It’s by the developer of Gmail.
By the way, if you don’t know what “incipient” means, I had to look it up also! Dictionary.com defines it as beginning to exist or appear; in an initial stage: an incipient cold.
Paul Buchheit, who left Google and currently works for a startup with other ex-Googlers, thinks it’s important to release applications in an incipient phase to get feedback from users.
So what’s the right attitude? Humility. It doesn’t matter how smart and successful and qualified you are, you simply don’t know what you’re doing. (…) What is the humble approach to product design? Pay attention. Notice which things are working and which aren’t. Experiment and iterate. Question your assumptions. Remember that you are wrong about a lot of things. Watch for the signals. Lose your technical and design snobbery.
Some thoughts from the blog:
Paul (and Gmail) refused to add a Delete button for a while. They wanted users to Archive, not Delete. Didn’t work. Users wanted a Delete button. So Gmail added a Delete button.
Gmail wanted users to Tag, not File in a folder. Users want to File (yes, Microsoft has trained us all!!!), so after trying to educate users, Gmail is now added “filing” type functionality like drag-n-drop rather than sticking to the “assign a tag(s), not drag to a folder”.
This is good advice for me personally, who tends to die on the wrong hills while trying to change user behavior. There is bound to be balance, but I have trouble finding it. What do you think?
[Thanks, Mike, for first alerting me to the blog.]