Where to begin

By Mike / On / In Knowledge

A lot of aspiring App Makers contact me, wondering how to get started turning their idea into an actual product. Should they hire a coder, or learn to code themselves? Or should they start with a designer? Or an investor? My advice, as always, is to start at the end. That is, make a video that shows people using your app.

This accomplishes several things. First and foremost, it establishes the story of your product, which is what people will tell each other about your product. It also gives you focus. People always tell you to do one thing and do it well. This establishes that one thing right up front.

When you’re making the video what you’re doing is you’re putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. You’re stopping to think, in a formal way, about what it’s like for people to use your product. As you go through those motions, you realize what the product needs to be, the genesis of design.

Making a video also establishes a vision of the product. I’m a big fan of generating marketing materials early in the product development process, because it helps everyone know just what exactly you’re intending to build. Great products come from great teams, but only if everyone agrees on what they’re building.

By the time your video is finished, you’ll know what you’re building, what it looks like, and how it works. You’ve also got the video itself, which you’ll show to potential recruits, investors, and customers. In addition to showing the world why they would use your product, the video shows them how they would use your product. This is Apple’s favorite trick: pre-training people with commercials, making the products seem intuitive.

App videos have become increasingly popular if only because they fill the gap left by app stores cutting out trial periods. If you can’t try it, at least you can see someone else trying it. For a lot of people, that’s the push they need to buy. That also means that app videos are as competitive as apps themselves.

The standard presentation rules apply. You want to entertain, inspire, and educate, in that order. A minute is a gigabyte of attention span, so try to keep the video short. Be creative, but don’t go overboard. Getting the audio quality right is more important than all the stunts in the world.

Made by robots in California

By Mike / On / In Technology

This week’s winner of the “Who can be more like Apple?” award is HP, which has had some success with its HP Touchpad, because it looks enough like an iPad you can almost forgive it for not being an iPad. But let us make one thing abundantly clear:

With uncle* of the iPod Jon “Ruby” Rubinstein on the job, they’re obviously not trying to be Apple. Richard “It’s Richard” Kerris, formerly Apple’s Senior Director of Worldwide Developer Relations, even said so, which is how we know it’s true. The fact they ripped off Apple’s trademark slogan merely serves to drive that point home.

As I have pointed out before on this blog, the problem with following Apple is that the furthest you can go is up Apple’s ass. If you want to compete with Apple, you have to do your own thing, which might just enable you to out Apple Apple.

Instead what you get is Apple’s slogan with hippyish “Apple” replaced by the inhuman “HP,” which sounds like the name of a robot, or to the British, the name of a tangy sauce.

Back when HP had a soul, it was called Hewlett Packard, because it was started by two guys named Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, classmates at Stanford, who started the business in their Palo Alto garage.

These were the guys Steves Jobs and Wozniak were emulating when they started Apple in a garage. These are the guys everybody is emulating when they try to frame their company as having been born in a garage.

You know the way all pilots sound the same? That’s because they are all trying to be like Chuck Yeager. You know how every technology company says they were started in a garage? That’s because they are all trying to be like Hewlett Packard. Not HP. Hewlett Packard.

You know why its fans put up with Apple when they’re bad? Because they make quality products. But aside from that, it’s because when we look at Apple, we see that picture of Steve and Steve in the garage.

Where’s the picture of Bill and Dave in the garage? Why don’t you take that picture, simplify it a bit, make it look like a woodcutting, and laser engrave it on the back of your new toy. Remind people where you came from. Remind yourself where you came from. Then live up to that.

That, my friends, is how you compete with Apple.

* The actual father of the iPod being Tony Fadell.