Of drills & holes

While building new apps I keep thinking of the quote attributed to the CEO of Black & Decker: “People don’t buy our tools because they want one-inch drills. They buy them because they want one-inch holes.”

As technologists we think about the guts of things, but customers often favor the simpler thing (Twitter, Mac OS Spotlight) over the more conceptually powerful one (Google Wave, WinFS). My career’s full of this: advocating general, interesting stuff (e.g. HTML layers for Photoshop) only to get pantsed by simpler approaches (just tweaks to the existing PS vector tools).

I’ve heard that Amazon starts projects by writing a press release of what features the user will see, then working backwards to check that they’re building something valuable. We’d do well to do the same. As Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”

4 thoughts on “Of drills & holes

  1. Dude. I still want the HTML layers. The copy layer style stuff is not useful when you have existing HTML and CSS but want to work on new designs based on that existing work. It is only good for setting up new sites and even then, it’s pretty limited. Create a webkit rendered layer. It would be awesome!

  2. Having used Adobe products for many years now I do feel it would be really good if Adobe fixed what they’d made already before the bounce us with the next iteration of their programs. Would be really great if tools were standardised across the range of products. Some really cool features in, say InDesign, don’t seem to make it to other programs and programs like Adobe Captivate seem to lag behind other programs. Oh and the Cloud stuff….I still don’t get it (maybe I’m slow)

  3. People don’t buy printers, they buy pictures. But I’ve never been to a store that stocks printers that also has example pictures to look at.
    The same could be said for cameras.

  4. Well if it’s not simple enough no one can handle it. So to help the kids out with the complicated stuff, Alan Alda has this going on right now:
    In the spirit of solving that easily enough, Adobe can likely help the rest of us out with their software offerings by writing down a few terse words about the complicated gyrations we need to use to get that hole into a metaphorical wall.

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