Monday, June 20, 2016

I Know It's Just a Show, BUT...

This week's episode of HBO's Silicon Valley was painfully aggravating. The episode, "Daily Active Users" encapsulated the problem of lots of people signing up for an app, but a very low number of people actually using the app after installing it. In the episode, they paid for focus group testing and discovered that the average person who would use the app didn't understand what it was supposed to do - one person complained that the "download button was missing".

The Pied Piper platform is supposed to be a revolutionary data compression system. The CEO complained they were too far ahead of their time for people to "get" the app.

The real problem is that their little start-up didn't have a UX person on the team. And it was one of those times where I found myself yelling at the TV, because Richard (the CEO) is seriously considering shutting his company down instead of hiring an interface designer (which he should have done in Season 2 of the series) to make the front end something that the non-technical people who are their user base can figure out how to use without hours of lectures about quantum computing and neural networks.

If this technology were so advanced, it can still live behind an interface that looks familiar to people, even if it's got actions that aren't necessary for how the back-end works, but makes the users feel more comfortable and familiar with what's going on.

It's not necessary for an average user to understand the algorithm behind the scenes. It's necessary for them to figure out how to use the thing in front of them. The rest can be "magic" unless they're interested in finding out how it works and then diving into the research.

Yeah, I find it really frustrating when TV characters are presented to us as the huge genius intellects and yet they miss some of the most obvious and basic solutions staring them right in the face. Maybe it wouldn't have been so funny or it would be less dramatic. It would have been nice to see someone suggest bringing in a designer - there is actually a lot of humor potential in the designer-developer dynamic; and it would have resulted in a robust product that could be successful in the context of the show.

Maybe they'll bring one in for the next season, and the designer can berate them for not including one at the inception of the company. With hilarious results.

Yes, it's only a show. But this is also a "teachable moment".

Bring in a designer when you are starting project development. It will help increase your "Daily Active User" numbers.

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