Customer Development and Parenthood

Kids fall down a lot; like all of the time. I don’t even think that I possess the ability to count how many times my daughter falls every day. At any given time, she is either actively falling, on the ground still from the previous fall, or standing up from the previous fall.

Since she falls so much (she has only been walking for three months or so), I am constantly moving things out of her way so that she doesn’t trip, or moving things so that she doesn’t fall into them. I think that every parent does this; Walking to the next room just behind the baby and giving the room a quick once over to make sure that nothing is within arms reach that she will find enticing; Jumping up to try in vain to catch her as she stumbles over her own pacifier so she doesn’t whang her head for the second time in as many hours; It just becomes a habit to try and anticipate what is going to draw the baby’s attention in an unwanted direction to the detriment of her stability.

While consoling my daughter the other night from another countless wipe out, I realized that this is exactly what customer development is all about – observing your userslike a hawk, looking critically at your product, and removing the stuff that is going to distact and/or hamper your user.

Redesigning UI’s to ones that don’t trip up the user is no different than re-arranging your living room so that the hard armchair arms aren’t right next to the walkway at infant head height. And just like an infant will stumble over everything in their path – toys, pillows, their own feet, the carpet pile – your users will stumble on every UI element that they haven’t navigated a thousand times before. You want an underbar that comes in from the right side of the screen? Good luck with a user using that without stumbling. You want users to click on the robot icon to do your app’s magic artificial intelligence thing? Unless that robot icon is also your app’s logo, that cool little robot is just some confusing button.

Parenting and customer development are the exact same process (although I’ve only been a parent for just over a year, so maybe I am way off base). The whole idea is to have an idea of where you want your user/customer/child to end up, closely and critically observe them, and build the tools to get them to realize your vision. I want my daughter to experience the whole world and not get too banged up, so I make sure that the sharp corners are at least somewhat padded, and the stairs are blocked. I want my users to be able to scrape every fraction of a penny of profit out of their food businesses, so at Bareo we strive to make sure that we are always guiding users to more and more efficient ingredient sourcing and usage behaviors. This means a constantly evolving UI, a constantly evolving analytics suite, and lots and lots of observation and feedback. The process is the same, and since practice makes perfect, I am hoping for perfect outcomes to both my parenting and customer development.