In this fast-paced and synergistic world, buzzwords get the play. Non-technical people start companies and press ridiculous deadlines to their engineers, Web 1.0 burnouts start new companies that are just rehashes of the idea they couldn’t make work in 1999, and the technology you use is more important than the value you provide. Hell, VCs are getting sick of their clients making it big, so they’re starting half-assed “Web 2.0” companies of their own which are off the map 1 month after beta.
In all this craziness I have to wonder what some people are thinking. I can’t tell you how many ugly designs and worthless “applications” I’ve seen come across my browser pixels the past 5 months, but what I can divulge is the precise 5-step plan for making me laugh at you and your company. Here we go:
- 1. Tout your technologies like you know WTF they are.
This one is for all the CEOs who can’t touch type, you know who you are. I can’t tell you how embarrassingly funny it is to read blog entries or About pages where technological terms are thrown around and mushed up like cow shit in a tornado. Oh, so you use Ruby on Rails and Ajax? Sweet! Who developed the RoR framework? Is it a framework or a programming language? What’s Ajax used for, slidey effects? Nope, guess again. Go take this quiz and see how well you do, and while you’re at it, stop telling your engineers when your beta release date is before you have the specs worked out, because you’re an idiot and they’re quitting next week.
- 2. Have no shame in pitching your company.
I propose a new drinking game: every time you see somebody slide a sidearmed company pitch into a Techcrunch comment, you must take a shot. It usually sounds like, “Wow that’s a great idea, in fact, we’ve been working on LINK HERE for a few months and it incorporates that functionality, and more!” Just today I’ve seen some examples, but I won’t link to you because they’re too blatant. Okay, I lied.
- 3. Your market only includes people who Flickr and del.icio.us all day.
Here’s a no-brainer that so many people can’t seem to wrap their medulas around — the concept that people like you and I (geeks, tech industry folk) are a spawning field of gilded flowers ready to be plucked, a veritable platinum watch of a market segment. If your goal as a company is to only attract the technorati and Valley cognescenti then I’d love to see your projections of a break even point. People who immediately signup for your beta web app or read about your company via Techcrunch RSS on their Blackberry makeup approximately 0.0005% of the U.S. population as a whole, so stop kidding yourself. You can literally sneeze and have 10,000 people from the Valley signup for a beta invite, but they’re the easiest group to snag. Try landing another million people out there if you’re touting technologies instead of provided value, and once you’re done with that I’ve got some online-ordered dog food to sell ya.
- 4. Comments are off on your blog.
What’s the point of having a company weblog if comments are turned off? Blogs are great for two-way communication, so stop using them as press release regurgitators. If you want user feedback then be ready to accept it, for good or for bad.
- 5. Spend money on advertising instead of design.
As a designer and also as a human being forced to look at the design of your company’s site or web app, do me a favor and please make sure it doesn’t look like shit. It doesn’t have to be fancy and sleek, just make it usable and clean and I promise I won’t blog about your company. Don’t launch with this.
Now that you know which 5 things to avoid, here’s 1 thing you should actually do: provide value. Provide me added value in my everyday life, make something easier/faster/better. Don’t hope that I use your fluff simply because I like added fluff in my life because it doesn’t work like that. Solve an actual problem, don’t create a solution without anything out there to solve.