I was using Wite-Out® today for the first time in years. As I painted out type, I thought for a moment what it might have been like to be a Wite-Out product manager 10 years ago. Imagine asking the user experience question: What bothers Wite-Out users about Wite-Out? What can we improve? The immediate replies that came to mind:
- Waiting for the Wite-Out to dry
- Clumpy application of the correction fluid after the first use; the fluid dries and sticks to the brush and the neck of the bottle
- Having to paint over the same words two or three times because they show through even after the first application
- The smell (some people like it, some hate it)
What jumps out here is that improvement in any one of the first three areas will have a negative impact on one or two of the others. If Wite-Out dried faster, it would dry (and clump up) on the bottle and brush applicator faster. If it clumped less, it would take more time to dry; it would also be a thinner fluid that would be less opaque once the liquid evaporated.It’s a no-win scenario, which is probably why there were no major changes in Wite-Out technology over the first 20 years of my life: the product designers had found the best balance — or perhaps the least-bad compromise — between drying quickly and maintaining wetness (smoothness), and were sticking to it. But it must have been frustrating if you were trying to make a better product and increase market share.I popped over to Bic’s Wite-Out site to have a look. Guess what? As of 1994, there are four different formulations of fluid Wite-Out: Quick Dry, Super Smooth, Extra Coverage and Water Base (low odor). Hm.I suppose a cynic might say that there are four different packages for the same product, and the formulation label just panders to the public’s varying degrees of Wite-Out insecurity. In fact, the proliferation of Wite-Out recipes reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell’s classic statement from Howard Moskowitz that “There is no perfect spaghetti sauce. There are only perfect spaghetti sauces.” In The Ketchup Conundrum, Gladwell expresses it thus:
The answer appeared almost immediately: a specific recipe that, according to Moskowitz’s data, produced a score of 78 from the people in Segment 1. But that same formulation didn’t do nearly as well with those in Segment 2 and Segment 3. They scored it 67 and 57, respectively. Moskowitz started again, this time asking the computer to optimize for Segment 2. This time the ratings came in at 82, but now Segment 1 had fallen ten points, to 68. “See what happens?” he said. ”If I make one group happier, I piss off another group. We did this for coffee with General Foods, and we found that if you create only one product the best you can get across all the segments is a 60—if you’re lucky. That’s if you were to treat everybody as one big happy family. But if I do the sensory segmentation, I can get 70, 71, 72. Is that big? Ahhh. It’s a very big difference. In coffee, a 71 is something you’ll die for.”
I’m guessing that a similar process went on at Bic: if you can’t actually improve a product’s features without making some other problem even more annoying, then instead of finding a compromise balance (as was done historically), optimize for each problem separately. Voila! Four kinds of Wite-Out.Of course, you can then go ask Barry Schwartz why having four correction fluid options won’t make your life happier…P.S.: I just realized that Wite-Out also now has a sponge-wedge tip instead of that inconvenient shaggy bristle tip. Nice!
Today is Day 2 of the Google Books game. The game is a brilliant way of exposing new users of Google Books to the service, and to spread the word about the service.It’s also fun!
Play the 10 Days in Google Books gameWelcome to the world of books! The 10 Days in Google Books game consists of 5 questions per day, each day with a different theme. Find the answers using Google Books!Daily PrizesEvery day is a new chance to win. Here’s how: after you answer today’s questions, write a brief creative entry on the topic of books. Each day, the top 3 submissions will win Sony Readers. The first 20,000 people to play the game will also get Google Books laptop stickers.
An interesting twist to the game is that you also have to provide a 50-word entry with your take on the future of books and reading. It’s this blurb that is considered when they choose their Sony Reader winners.
The sensory experience of the context, geography and tactile feel of the book as it meshes with the story is not replaceable. We’ll use ebooks, smartphones for reference and mobile purposes. But for pleasure, we’ll have reusable folios instantly printed from online downloads. The best of both worlds!
What do you think the future of books will look like?
Thanks to Michael Danziger for the tip.
Serbin founded Duo Guo in Shanghai after observing the huge demand, if not pent-up desire, of people to buy content for their mobiles right inside the store.
Many customers who had just spent close to a month’s salary for a new mobile phone were then rearing to load it up with value-added content such as software, games and other multimedia entertainment.
But in most cases, they just didn’t know how.
A gem of a site, dedicated to preserving the memories of Jewish-owned family grocery stores in the greater Washington, DC area. (Is that a specific niche, or what?!) Don’t miss it.
Seen this week in TSA bins in Los Angeles… and San Jose… and Seattle… :
Zappos.com is a great source for online shoe buying. We’ve found that the user comments are helpful, the site is easy to navigate, and the purchase goes smoothly.
What a great place to advertise: right in the bin into which you have to put your shoes and laptop computer as you pass through TSA security screening! You’re thinking about your shoes, you’re looking into the bin, and if the line moves slowly, you have nothing else to look at. Brilliant.
They’ve expanded into accessories (of the leather-goods type), too, hence the following:
These Jawbone headsets are gorgeous. I have to tell you, though, that I’d find it really, really hard to pick up and purchase any one of these. Sweet Talk? Dirty Talk? Trash Talk?
To the extent that branding taps into our desires and desired identities, this campaign is counterproductive in my case.
On a philosophical level, you might choose to interpret the line as being offensively racist. I probably would. But that’s another story.
[via Engadget Mobile]
A funny thing happened on my way to the CNET blogs today…
I saw the following ad:
Huh? That’s really funny! Now, I never, never click on banner ads. Never. But this is too good to resist.
Yes, I did it. I clicked.
And, believe it or not, I’m going to recommend that you check out the advertising page, too. www.stayathomeserver.com (is that a great site address, or what?!). The page opens with a tongue-in-cheek video news report, and then… well, just check it out yourself. And don’t leave without reading the whole book, it’s a total riot. A spoof on those books that help you discuss sensitive issues with your young children (like intimacy, non-nuclear families, handicaps).
Can this possibly be the same Microsoft that just last week sponsored Telecom TV at Mobile World Congress under the ad line, “We call it… Telco 2.0″? [brief pause to stifle gag reflex]
Maybe advertising this good means I’ll have to stop laughing at Microsoft. Heck, I’ll have to stop laughing at the ad, first.