Kathy Sierra on Making Users Awesome, Part 1

In the book, Badass: Making Users Awesome, Kathy Sierra analyzed and discussed the new ways of thinking about designing and sustaining successful products and services.

These are some of my takeaways from reading the book.

Imagine we are in a game with one objective: producing a bestselling product or service with no marketing budget and no PR stunts. The product or service also must be sustainably successful. In other words, it is not a short-term fad. Kathy believes this is achievable with skill and strategy.

The answer to the previous question does not live in the products or services themselves. Surprisingly, the answer lies in those, the users, who use those products or services. True, trusted recommendations are the beginning of answering the ultimate question.

We may be tempted to look for common attributes across awesome products and try to duplicate those attributes. What we should be doing is to look for common attributes across awesome users of those products. Another word, awesome product is mostly a by-product or side-effect of users who can produce awesome results from it.

When users get awesome results from our products, they become badass users. Badass users are more skillful and more powerful in getting awesome results that are personally meaningful.

When badass users evangelize our products to their friends, they do not do it because they like our products. They do it because they like their friends and want to share the great results with them.

It turned out that most companies compete on the quality of the product (product/service awesomeness), not the quality of the user’s results with the product (user awesomeness). Competing solely on product quality has little headroom, especially when everyone can practice six-sigma and other quality-assurance frameworks.

Competing on the user awesomeness scale gives much room to maneuver and to grow. There are many more varieties of user awesomeness playing field to work with. As a result, we can intentionally design our product/service to serve a tribe of users and reduce the competition.

Competing on the user awesomeness scale requires us to think carefully and hard about the question of “Badass at… what?”

  • What does our product/service enable?
  • What can people now do because of our product/service that they could not do without it?
  • What can people now do better because of our product/service?
  • What are people not doing now, but could if they took advantage of all that our product/service supports?

Kathy encourages us to think hard about the “Compelling Context.” People do not want to be badass at user the tool/utility we created. They want to be badass at producing better results with our tool/utility.

But what defines “better?” Better is like when we upgrade our TVs/monitors from standard resolution to higher resolution. Higher resolution means more details. More details enable higher expertise. Higher expertise notices and appreciates more details, so they support each other. In other words, badass means a deeper, richer experience for the users.

Higher resolution also results in higher-end products/services. When we do not just upgrade our product but also upgrade our users, chances are more of them will become badass users. Badass users talk, and they are our best source of authentic, unincentivized recommendations.

One last thing. World-class customer service does not always result in more badass users. Badass users only come from helping them grow their skills, resolution, and results. Don’t just make a better tool/widget, make a better user of tool/widget!