Quality Product Time

Having decided to give up full-time work my successor and I decided that we should make a final trip together to visit key customers in the US. It was a great trip to NY and LA, visiting many of the major post-production, film and television production facilities.

At one such visit I had just explained the context of our visit when our senior contact leaned back and said “Ah, yes, its all about QTR, isn’t it?”. “QTR?” I asked. “Quality Time Remaining” he explained. It certainly made me pause for thought on what I was doing with my own life, but upon reflection it also brings up another idea, that of quality time in our products.

We give a lot of thought to ‘quality’ in our products don’t we? We spend a lot of time discussing it and trying to figure out how to measure it. Usually this all ends up being limited to a discussion about the number of bugs, accessibility or keystrokes required. If you are lucky you might get as far as talking about the design, but even then I suspect most of us shy away from words like ‘beauty’ or ‘pleasure’.

So stop and ask yourself, when was the last time you spoke to a customer or user who said “I love your product”? How else could we measure whether our users time using our products was ‘quality’ time or not?

There are bright spots. I have had users say this to me about my products, but in a 40 years, precious few, and I blame myself, not them! I have also had a CEO tell me that her objective was to ‘delight’ her customers with her service offering. That was such an unusual thing to hear, it has stuck in my mind since.

However sophisticated or mundane our products are, surely they can delight? If you pick up a tool and it fits in your hand not just comfortably, but in a way that makes it a pleasure to hold. The balance of it is just right so it feels like it will be effortless to use. And when you do use it, it is as though it knows just what you wanted to do.

You can apply the same thinking to software products. They should come to you when you need them, ready and demonstrably capable of completing the task you have in mind. Control should be swift and easy, the task quickly completed. If not, why? Maybe you should ask your users whether they love your product and if not, why? Do you not value your users time enough to ensure that when they spend it in your product, it is quality time? For, surely they will come back again and again if it is.


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