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25 Apr 2008

by Noel

Know Your Customer

Watch the battle below and guess who won: Bboy Baek (on the left), or Bboy Born (on the right).

I expect most people would say Baek. He does all the crazy stuff, right? Looks hard and impressive, while Born is just spinning around on the floor most of the time. However, I expect most bboys would give it to Born, who in fact did win that battle. Why? Born sets are well constructed. He has a nice mixture of toprock (the stuff standing up) and downrock (the stuff on the floor), and mixes up the tempo with those pauses at 1:27 and 2:40. Baek has great moves, but he just throws them down without any real set up, and he messes up some of them, like the hand-hop at 50s and the flares at 2:14. Also, when the music changes he just wanders around the stage, not dancing.

I like this video as its reminds me of an obvious but sometimes forgotten point in software development: experts are not everyone. Expert users are often the most vocal, and when desiging software it can be very easy to let their concerns dominate to the detriment of less skilled but more numerous users. Sometimes a new feature is just creeping featurism, but sometimes it’s core to the target market. The only way to tell the difference is to constantly keep in mind who the customer is. Startups in particular can have difficulty with this, as by definition a startup doesn’t yet have any customers. Common advice to startups: scratch your own itch and dog fooding, can be seen as mechanisms to put the developers into the mindset of the users. 37Signals advice to build less is appropriate when targeting the general public. Extreme Programming mandates an Onsite Customer. We’re lucky at the moment to have constant contact with our customers, and regular feedback from them is important make sure we develop software that is useful for them.

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