Julie Zhuo Profile picture
19 May, 14 tweets, 3 min read
Imagine you're using a product and something bothers you about it.

Maybe it takes 5 clicks to do anything.

Maybe it works but is kinda ugly and clunky.

"I bet I could make a new app that's 15% better," you think. "Instant business success!"

This is a fallacy. Thread πŸ‘‡
This lesson took me many failures to properly appreciate.

Especially since it seems like a given: if millions of people use a mediocre service every day, and I come along and make the same thing but better, won't they obviously choose my product?

But no.
Product builders are trained to ask: "Is our product better than the competition's?"

What they should be asking instead is: "Is our product better enough to motivate a change in behavior?"

There is a big difference.
Instead of asking "Is it better?" than the alternative, we need to ask:

1) How much better?
2) How painful is the alternative?
3) How easy is it to switch?
Example: when I need a ride, I'll open up my default ride-sharing app. If the closest driver is more than 8 minutes away, or the price is too high, I'll immediately switch to the competitor.

In this case, switching costs are low. So 15% better on time or $$ gets my business.
Example: everyone's hyping up this new note-taking app. I download it. Seems great. Some better features than my current app.

But my current app is fine. And wow will it be painful to port over my huge archive of past notes.

Sorry, not switching.
"Switching costs are high" is the reason why bad legacy software persists in older orgs.

If the next-gen stuff isn't 2-3x better, it can't overcome the switching pain. It still might be 30-70% better though. Which is why new co's will readily adopt it.
Also, "good enough" is its own barrier. I used to rattle off all the ways YouTube could be better, but didn't care enough to upload to other video services that have come along over the years.
(This is also why every week there seems to be a new and "better" to-do app being launched, which are often fun demos or show pieces, but I can't recall any having huge traction in growth.)
As a designer, it was hard to accept that people wouldn't always clamor to use something that was more usable, more understandable, more delightful.

But purely aesthetic improvements rarely make something >15% better (unless status is involved). Functionality matters more.
Of course, 15% better will usually find *some* audience, usually the most avid and discerning users of a service.
But just because you can find the first 500 customers doesn't guarantee wider appeal.
So, to recap: just because you can build a service better than anything else out there doesn't guarantee you will have a hit.

Understand: "Is it better enough to motivate a switch?"

1) How much better?
2) How painful is the alternative?
3) How easy is it to switch?

Also: if you want to get a once-a-month e-mail summarizing my weekly Twitter threads, sign up here: lg.substack.com

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More from @joulee

12 May
Is there a term for someone who geeks out on how to get to know someone better? Because I'm definitely in that club.

So of course I looooove thinking about interview questions.

Thread of my favorite questions to ask folks to understand how they think and work.

For understanding their personality:

If I interviewed your siblings and 3 best friends and asked them to describe you, what would they tell me?

For understand their career journey:

What was your decision-making process to join/leave your last 3 roles?

Read 15 tweets
6 May
Designers have many superpowers, but one underrated one is that the work of design leads one to become more comfortable with uncertainty.

How does this impact the product development process?

Thread πŸ‘‡
I learned this lesson almost immediately after receiving my first shiny new design assignment. This was also my first time working with a PM.

She asked me when my work would be done by. I had no experience with design scoping, so I said I'd get back to her.
I brought the question to some senior designers on my team.

"How long should a project like this take?"

A shrug. Then: "It'll take as long as it takes until it's good."
Read 14 tweets
28 Apr
"Some people are simplifiers. You're a complexifier."

This was a piece of feedback I received once from a colleague.

Yeah, it burned.

It felt like a shitty thing to say.

Thread πŸ‘‡(1/11)
Why did I think that? Let's break down the ways:

1) Immediately I'm cast as different, part of the "other" group

2) Saying I'm a "complexifier" makes it sound like this sucky label is my permanent identity.

3) Geez this statement is broad. How about some examples?

I can't say why my colleague gave me feedback this way.

Were they trying to sound insightful? Smart? Superior?

Maybe they thought this kind of delivery would have the biggest impact?

Maybe they wanted to see me squirm?

Read 12 tweets
22 Apr
Companies are like people.

Not sprawling networks of people (though technically that's right)

Rather, thinking about a company as an individual makes many things easier to understand.

Pick the company to join like you'd pick who you'd want to hang out with every day.

Companies have personalities, just like people do. Some companies are flashy and dramatic. Others are staid and quiet. Some live in the future, constantly tossing out new inventions. Others are ruthlessly competitive.

Like with people, all strengths have shadow downsides. Apple's quality and cool comes from a secretive, top-down culture.

Zoom's focus on superior tech leaves it lacking when it comes to product features.

Read 13 tweets
15 Apr
Before The Making of a Manager came out, my publishers and I had a chat that left me deeply uncomfortable.

"Who are some business writers / leaders you admire?" they asked.

Easy. I rattled off a dozen names.

"Great, can you ask them to read your book and give a blurb?"

My initial reaction: 😬
I came up with a myriad of excuses for why I couldn't ask for a blurb.

They don't know me! It would be rude to ask.
They are important people and far too busy to read my book!
I don't have their e-mails.

My publishers cheerfully added some e-mails to the list, reminded me of how important blurbs were to establish the credibility of my book, and wished me well.

Read 10 tweets
8 Apr
One of the stories we used to tell in the early days of Facebook was how a small, two-engineer project came to dominate the entire photo sharing landscape in the late 2000s.

Thread πŸ‘‡ 1/10
Let's zoom back to 2005, when pre-mobile Internet photo sharing services were one upping each other on storage, features, and slickness.

Across Photobucket, Shutterfly, Flickr and Picasa, there were high-res uploads, preview navigation, theme tags, search by color, + more

Facebook Photos, built by a scant team over two months, was extremely bare-bones in comparison. It only supported low-res photos. No comments. No likes. It didn't even have a nice full-screen view.

There were no bells and whistles, save one...

Read 11 tweets

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