I’ve been thinking about the way Apple presents itself to its users, and their “it just works” philosophy. Basically, whether that’s marketing, or is it true to some extent? Now there’s already been much thought, books even, on the matter of why Apple is so successful as a company, so this isn’t some attempt to rehash those same things.
So, Apple is famous for not releasing something when the product isn’t complete, or up to their satisfaction. I mean, come on, we all remember the copy-and-paste “feature” on iOS 3 back in 2009. That’s copy and paste functionality for you, in the third version of the OS offering. For those who want to reminisce, there’s a link to engadget.
However, here’s the thing, and since this is casual, forgive the generalization. Most other companies have a tendency ship products that are in “beta”, or half-done, following the strategy of who-ships-first-gets-the-first-catch.
And as a result, they put a place-marker on the expectations of their users. However, they make the fatal mistake of then keeping absolutely quiet, while they go about their internal business of fixing things, and this is also where Jeff makes his key point – it’s what you do after you release that matters orders of magnitude more than the release itself. To quote:
“Instead of spending three months fixing up this version in a sterile, isolated lab, you could be spending that same three month period listening to feedback from real live, honest-to-god, dedicated users of your software.”
– Jeff Atwood, Coding Horror
So the bottom line is this, if the first beta is a piece of junk, and you don’t engage your users and show them and convince them that you are taking them seriously and that you are working hard to make the next release great, then many people are going to get instantly turned off. Now, it would take a whole new level of encouragement and even goading to make those users try the product again. This is even after the product is now at version 3, and is pretty close to fantastic.
Apple, on the other hand, gives the impression that whatever they touch will become gold, not because it really does (no offence, the guys at Apple are probably some seriously smart guys), but because of the whole concept of expectation management. They hold back, they tempt, and when they deliver, it’s just right, it just works – true to their tag phrase. The result of that? People are willing to place their bets on Apple products which they haven’t seen.