The Cost of Delighting Users

Oct 11 2023

A lot of discussion has surface lately around the place social media has in society. The most pressing question is how much value is recieved for the time spent on social media and how this effects our lives overall.

If you look at the idea of exchanging time for social content and product recomendations, a few things stand out. Most notably, how the casual interactions with a wide number of people would balance in value against a more connected experience with a smaller number of people in person.

There is one feature change I would like to introduce to social media. Remove the like button. When people can like something casually they have no real incentive to interact with the author. Taking that casual action away just might get people to interact in a more real way again. And who knows, it might delight them when someone responds as well.

If technology is designed to get us places, connect us, and make our lives better. The content is where most of the delighting happens. When I book a hotel room I am delighted by the room I stay in. When I watch a show on a streaming service I am delighted by the meaning of the story. So what role does the software play in delighting me in these interactions.

To understand this premise it may be helpful to consider where all this technology came from, and when it came about. In the 90’s software was a near identical replica of the physical world. We still have folders and images of paper on our computer desktops even though the way we interact with files is far more abstract. At some point, I want to say around the early 2000s, the term gamification became popular. This was the idea that if people found challenge and reward in software applications they were more likely to spend time using them.

Enter status bars, badges, and learning algorithms designed to surface behavior driven content. This transformed the industry from providing software used to do things into an industry that provided software to keep people using the software. And the king of this domain was social media.

The dominence of the social media and search industries has had a somewhat tainting effect on user experience in other areas like productivity software. When I look at calendars, insurance websites, and information technology products of all kind, I see echo’s of this gamified entertainment approach getting in the way of me getting things done.

As we build a suite of productivity products, it’s very important to me that the business circumstances of the customer remains the focus. Our functionality is very supportive and minimal with the understanding that they have a business to run. We are also a desktop product which means that the amount of screen time it takes to use our product is not a factor of our success in any way.

I’ve thought about this balance of functionality and entertainment enough to come to a rather radical path for our fundraising process. I don’t intend to ever write a pitch deck, even through we are asking for investment.

We are going out with a one page company profile, business plan, financial schedule/forecast, and some product documentation while we get the demo ready. To me this sets the tone for the impact I want our company to have in the world. Effective planning and presentation. I’m raising money to build a desktop business application, I don’t see a thematic pitch format adding value to that process, and I fear that this is an indication of the software industry drifing away from business fundementals all together. A screenshot from our financial forecast

Time will tell if my failure to delight the industry will keep us on the perimeter of investment firms. I have my reasons (and my limitations) but this really could go either way.