The Speed vs. Quality Debate

I love moving fast. Anyone that has spent any time around me knows that I am always looking for ways to improve efficiency, move quicker, and go faster. But there’s a very dangerous downside to speed. The first thing usually sacrificed when you are seeking speed is the quality of what you’re doing. This leads to a very real challenge which do you focus on and when should you focus on speed instead of quality; or conversely, when should you prioritize quality over moving faster. This is the question I’d like to look at quickly in this post.

Continue reading The Speed vs. Quality Debate

The Greatest at Personal Branding

On Saturday I woke up to the news that Muhammad Ali, arguably one of the most well-known sports figures of all time had passed away. My first reaction was a bit of surprise as I had been fairly unaware of his detiriorating condition. My next thoughts went instantly to the highlight reel in my head of the best moments, quotes, and interviews with the legendary loudmouth. As I Googled my way through the classics a new thought began to enter my marketing mind… Continue reading The Greatest at Personal Branding

Know Your Limits

Most people recognize that as they get older they start to slow down; or at least their bodies start to slow down. There’s less they can do and there are more things slowly seizing up. Recently I had a friend jokingly comment that they were ok with the minor aches and pains, and the crick in their neck was not that big a deal because as they said, “Hey, I’m 53 now and things are starting to break down.” Continue reading Know Your Limits

A Pyramid Scheme for Startups

Most startups traditionally all want to approach the market in a similar way. Scratching an itch. Starting with a great idea. Focusing on fixing a problem that the entrepreneur has personally experienced or seen. This is common. And certainly nothing wrong with this way for getting started. Ultimately you have to feel passionately about the problem you’re trying to solve; the pain you want to alleviate.

If you didn’t have this deep-seated desire there’s no need joy in the task you’re undertaking. But too many times (I’m learning this too as I talk with others) this is the sole foundation and focus of the business. When this personal perspective is the only focus of the startup there will be a struggle. So how does a startup grow beyond this phase? What’s the better approach to take for a successful business? Continue reading A Pyramid Scheme for Startups

The Importance of User Interface

One of the topics you’ll frequently see me write about (or speak on) relates to user interface and the user experience. I am passionate about providing the user with an experience that is both pleasing and easy to use. As a result I find that I am constantly looking at and analyzing the software and the interfaces of others. I find some that I think work amazingly well and I take note of what they do right. Unfortunately the majority of the interfaces I interact with I find do things poorly and in some cases absolutely horrendously.

What is it about gas stations?

The latest interface fiasco which forces me to write this particular article is captured in the screenshot below.

how to improve bad ui/ux

For the careful observer you’ll probably notice this is not the first time I have shared an image from a filling station or gas station. In fact, the previous time I pointed out something from the gas pump it also related to the user interface. If you don’t remember that image I’ve included it below as a refresher.

gas station bad user experience

It’s hard to know where to start but I suppose I’ll begin with the first graphic since it’s the most recent one I have come across. There’s one major and very glaring problem with the simple four step process they’ve outlined on this card. If you guessed step number one then give yourself a gold star, you are right!

Yes, Yes, Yes

A good user experience should never begin with the first step requiring the user to cancel something. This starts the interaction off wrong from the very beginning. You want to instill positivity and encourage them, not start off with a negative. In fact, this is a rather well-known fact and a common practice in sales/marketing worlds. One of the earliest encounters I had with this principle came from a timeless book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie. If you’ve never read this book I encourage you to do so. As you work through the principles you’ll come upon Principle #14:

“Get the other person saying ‘yes, yes’ immediately.”

Now, if we understand and agree with this principle then the idea behind this 4-step process beginning with a negative, “1. Press Cancel” is inherently wrong and a bad user experience. How do we make this experience better? Well, in this case simply changing the first step to “1. Press Go” or any other positive action word will resolve this conflict with the user experience. Maybe even drop the first step all together and move to a simple 3-step process!

One way to say yes

We started with the easy one, let’s now press on to the next image and a seemingly more difficult interface to fix. While at first glance this image and the user experience seems daunting and possibly unfixable the truth is that the solution is a simple one. One of the things I spend considerable time on is finding the best way, the most efficient way to accomplish a goal. I spend time finding ways to help others save time. I think good user interfaces should be efficient. And one of the best ways to be efficient I have found is by following another key principle. Keep it simple, otherwise known as the KISS principle.

“Keep it simple, stupid”

This is not a new concept and certainly not something specific to computers and software interfaces. But it can certainly be applied to these areas. Here is how you can apply the KISS principle to the user experience. Don’t make them click three buttons when one will do. Don’t give them 4 options to accomplish the same goal. Take the time to think through the interface and consolidate options. Give the user one way to say yes. 

I know you may be thinking I am over-thinking and over-analyzing something as simple as the way I pump gas, or how I interact with the rewards program at a gas station, but this is how I see the world. I believe we can make even the everyday experiences better and more enjoyable. Because every interface has the opportunity to improve a relationship, or harm one. The details matter. Every detail matters. Be thoughtful about how to do things better, how to interact better. Make it simple. Make it efficient. Make it excellent.

Global Marketing Automation

When we talk about global marketing automation and the need for a product which can meet the diverse needs of a world market one of the first priorities becomes languages. I’ve written about this before but recent news has made this a good time to revisit the topic. More often than not people tend to forget that there are other languages spoken in the world. It’s just human nature to become comfortable and focus on your local environment. This is especially noticeable in the Western world (aka the United States). But this is close-minded and a narrow focus on the task to accomplish.

Marketing automation has traditionally been one of the largest offenders of this narrow view of the world. Case in point: some of the most well-known existing marketing software companies are proud (and actually brag) on the fact they provide their software in 5 languages. Five.

Mautic is an open source marketing automation platform where the focus from the very first day has been on a global environment and the vision for a product available to everyone in every language. This community-first approach has lead to some incredible milestones being reached at insane speeds. How incredible? Let’s look at some numbers.

More than 253 collaborators have joined the Mautic translations team. Together these engaged volunteers have actively been translating Mautic into 24 languages. With more than 47 languages started. That’s amazing! (24 languages is 500% more translated than the other marketing platforms.) And the Mautic community has accomplished this in under 10 months. That’s not a typo; in less than a year this community has come together and built a robust platform available in a way unlike anything before. Local and familiar.

But this is not the end of the story. Even Mautic has a long way to go. Our community has some great momentum but this is not the time to sit back and relax. Because this is the bigger picture:

“There are roughly 6,500 spoken languages in the world today.” (Source)

And so, even though Mautic dominates the marketing landscape there are still thousands of languages yet to go. And as we have done so far we will continue to do, pressing on, empowering people around the world to use cutting edge marketing software in their native language. Because that’s what open source and community means. This is the power of our community and this is the power of Mautic.

A Better RedHat Model to Replicate Today

If you look at what made RedHat successful you will find a unique story. Unique in a variety of ways. First, the marketplace was dominated with closed source box software and lacked any open source freely available products. The dominant players sold licenses of a single software version. Secondly, the notion of free software but paid support was practically unheard of. Again, the dominant players would offer a paid product with free support. RedHat offered a reverse on this model. Many people are aware of this part of the story. Many understand the implications of free software and paid support and how enticing this proposition was. It is easy to see how this caused the global market to shift. Free software regardless of the support is a powerful motivator for someone to begin using a product.

But this is where the majority of people think the RedHat business model ends. This is the point at which many new companies attempt to mimic the supposed “RedHat Model”. And this is the fallacy. Because this is not the complete RedHat model. Look deeper and you find a much more detailed strategy which helped to make RedHat successful. Even still what follows may not be a complete picture but should provide at least a slightly more detailed view of the story.

Though the “free software and paid support” model does play a role in the overall strategy there are many more levels of opportunity present. This is the key to a modern day RedHat model. These often overlooked additional features are how a current open source model can replicate the success found in RedHat. Here’s a better look at the RedHat model.

RedHat offers a freely available product; an amazingly good codebase available for anyone to download. Then, in addition to offering support for this product RedHat provides a wide range of additional services offered as add-ons to effectively make things easier for businesses. Note what this does not mean. This does not yield a sub-standard or crippled free open source code. The free source code is every bit as powerful and is the basis on which RedHat builds everything else. Rather than maintaining a separate and “better” product RedHat takes away the pain of compiling and building the finished product. Then they offer support for this product (everyone sticks on this part)…and they offer additional services focused on specific market segments.

This is a brilliant strategy for a number of reasons. This approach still supports and encourages open source completely. This provides anyone and everyone regardless of the size of their business or their revenue the opportunity to use incredibly powerful software. This allows a global community the opportunity to find and improve the software and to implement improvements that meets the goals and needs of the majority. This strategy empowers people. And this strategy also allows a successful business to be built around this product. But this is just the beginning. Structuring things in this way paves the way for other businesses to find success and also be built on this same amazing source code.

RedHat is more than a support company. RedHat is an open source company that empowers people regardless of size. They have turned an industry on its head and revolutionized the way software could be released for free and still be profitable. This strategy, this complete strategy, can be replicated. This is how you can be successful today replicating the RedHat model. Look at the bigger picture. Don’t neglect the community. Don’t cripple the core open source code. Build supporting services to meet specific needs. Empower people.