Week 4 Reading (Part 1): How to Start a Startup

“Your app makes me fat” – Serious Pony

There was a study by Professor Baba Shiv that found willpower and cognitive processing draw from the same pool of resources. The point of this article is to be cognizant of the fact that every time you give a user a decision, you are also depleting that user’s cognitive resources. Ask yourself when designing products if you are depleting your user’s resources for things that it shouldn’t be and if you can direct those resources to the features in your app that supports why they are using it in the first place. The author discusses the (ethical?) motives for content marketing (you know those stupid clickbait articles that don’t help anyone and cause mindless internet roaming). Think more about the users, this seems a bit ironic coming from the author, but “because on their deathbed, our users won’t be thinking, “If only I’d spent more time engaging with brands”


“What Makes a Design Seem ‘Intuitive’?” – Jared Spool

The need to be more intuitive is a common suggestion among usability tests. The reality is that “people intuit, not interfaces” and what they are really saying is “I want something I find intuitive.” In order to nail this down, we need to step back and think about our users. It is almost certain that there will be a wide range of user-knowledge levels from “no knowledge” to “all knowledge”. The ‘current knowledge point shows you how much knowledge your users have when they approach the interface. The other point that is useful to us is the target knowledge point, which represents how much specific knowledge the user needs to accomplish their objective. Both of these points are very important whenever a specific user tries to complete a specific task. The author has found, that by plotting the users on a graph you will find very clear clusters – or bunches of users with very similar current knowledge levels. The knowledge gap is what is between that you need to overcome: this is where the design has to happen. There are two ways to bridge the knowledge gap: train the user, so you are increasing their current knowledge point; or you can reduce the knowledge necessary (target knowledge). “Most good design involves both: users are trained (through explanatory text and other devices) while the designer reduces complexity, reducing the gap distance from both directions.”

The two conditions of “Intuitive”

  • Condition 1: Both the current knowledge point and the target knowledge point are identical. When the user walks up to the design, they know everything they need to operate it and complete their objective.
  • Condition 2: Current knowledge point and target knowledge point are separate, but the user is completely unaware the design is helping them bridge the gap. The user is being trained, but in a way that seems natural

The author compares learned current knowledge to the phone at a hotel. You pick up the receiver and know that you need to press 9 to call outside the hotel – we all picked it up somewhere along the way. In this particular hotel, however, you need to press 8 – which we would say is ‘not intuitive’ but they were able to supplement the ‘far less intuitive number with several signs saying what # to press to get out – this bridged the gap quickly by training the user up to the new requirement.

How to Make Design Seem Intuitive

You first need to determine where your current and target knowledge points are: what do they already know and what do they need to know? You can use field studies, watch potential users in their own environments, use site visits, etc. Usability testing is a favorite of the author’s – when users sit in front of the design, knowledge gaps become instantly visible. Also realize that ‘intuitive doesn’t always make sense’ – it might cost way more than it is worth to design the interface down and reduce the target knowledge. One example of this is that Amazon has a very intuitive return  process, but it is not intuitive to find a phone number where you can call a customer service #. Amazon doesn’t want phone calls, so they don’t make it intuitive to call them. Amazon designers have deliberately made the process of contacting them difficult, which encourages you to use their tools to figure it out.


“The trick is to let you hype write a check your product can cash” – TechCrunch

The press is a tool when you are a Startup, but you don’t want to rely on them too heavily in your growth strategy OR ignore them. Not all startups need them, some examples are Theranos and WhatsApp – the biggest advice the Startup class has is to NOT approach the media until you get traction. If you do decide to contact the press, this article is to help you make good decisions about it:

  • Know why you are courting media coverage from the start
    • getting early customers/users
    • Receiving resumes for potential hires
    • creating awareness among investors
    • boosting the morale of your team
    • raising awareness or providing social proof for potential business development partners
  • Press is about telling stories, and building relationships with press people early on can pay dividends, depending on the nature of your company and your strategy
  • 4 dealing with the press strategies that he has seen work and not work for founders. What he is trying to show is that it really doesn’t have a ton to do with press at the end of the day. The press is a good way to get ‘more tickets’ but doesn’t guarantee or predict anything
    • Startup gets  no press, gets no traction, dies
    • Startup gets press, gets no traction, dies
    • Startup gets press, gets traction, goes public, gets bought by Facebook
    • Startup gets no press, gets traction, goes public or gets bought by Facebook
  • The reality is that most startups fail (>90%) and about 74% of these fail because of premature scaling.
  • Whatever your position in the press cycle, always ask yourself the following questions:
    • What problem am I solving for my customers?
    • Does my startup have reason to exist?
    • How can i make my service even better?
    • Am I improving things for the economy and society at large?
  • Three questions he always asks founders in interviews:
    • Who is your closest competitor and what do you do differently?
    • What are the challenges of doing this?
    • What are your future plans?
  • Simple rule: avoid overpromising and underdelivering


BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model

What causes behavior change? The Fogg Behavior Model shows that three elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: Motivation, Ability, and Trigger. Designers can use this as a guide to identify what stops people from performing behaviors that designers seek. If users are not performing a target behavior, you can use the FBM to see what psychological element is missing. The FBM outlines:

  • Three core motivators (motivation) and each has 2 sides:
    • Sensation: pleasure or pain
    • Anticipation: Hope or Fear
    • Belonging: Social rejection or social acceptance
  • Six Simplicity Factors (Ability) – Simplicity is a function of your scarcest resource at that moment
  • Three types of Triggers – The smart persuader asks people to do simple things (click here, walk for 10 minutes, etc.)
    • Facilitator: high motivation, but low ability
    • Spark: High ability, but no motivation
    • Signal: High ability, High Motivation


Customer Intimacy and Other Value

The success of companies like Home Depot, Nike, and Dell can be explained by the fact that they were able to:

  1. Redefine value for customers in their respective markets (what they valued)
  2. Build powerful, cohesive business systems that could deliver more of that value than their competitors (how it was delivered)
  3. They raised customers’ expectations beyond the competitions’s reach (boosted the expectations)

Customers have changed how they define value in the marketplace. It used to be that they valued some combination of quality and price. Today, this concept of value includes convenience, after sale service, dependability, and so on. But that does not mean you necessarily have to ace all of these things. In fact the most successful companies recently have succeeded by narrowing their focus, not broadening it. They will focus on one of the three value disciplines: operational excellence, customer intimacy, or product leadership. Become the leader in one and meet industry standards on the others.

Masters of two – there are a few rare companies out there that have figured out how to excel at two of the value disciplines. For example, Staples is a leader in Operational Excellence and Customer Intimacy.



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