product design

Use the best, even if it’s a competitor

Experts and developers say that is in part because the Android Market, the dominant store for Android apps, has some clunky features that can be annoying to phone owners eager to make a quick purchase. For starters, Android uses Google Checkout rather than an online payment system that more people are familiar with, like PayPal. As a result, many Android developers make their apps available free and rely on mobile advertisements to cover the cost.

In large companies, when a team is building a new product, there is often pressure to use other products/services offered by the company, even if they are not the best products in the market or the best user experience.

That is a mistake.

Google’s Android Marketplace product and development teams should build the best product they can. For the checkout component, they should use the best product out there – the one that guarantees the best user experience.

Internal and external products should be treated the same and allowed to compete for the right to be part of the product. For example, if PayPal is the best product, they should use PayPal for checkout. This puts the onus on the Google Checkout team to improve their product – it forces them to be competitive and up to scratch. It ensures that the Google Checkout team is never complacent, never just expecting to be slotted in just because they are a part of Google. It forces a startup, competitive mindset onto the team.

This open, competitive approach is not easy to do. In fact, it is very hard. There will be a lot of voices that say that Google should push Google Checkout in order to get adoption up – basically, prop it up. It’s almost always the wrong way to go, in this case for the Android Marketplace and if you are willing to take a bigger picture, for Google Checkout as well.

Give away stuff that makes your product easier

I bought a big jar of hand cream a while ago. I love it – it works great, it smells good, my hands always thank me.

But it comes with a screw-on lid. Not a big deal, right? I thought so as well. But I noticed that the jar has lasted me a long, long, long time.

Last week, I ordered more cream to put around the house. One of the options was to order a pump lid for an extra $1.50. I wasn’t sure it would work since the cream is really thick, but on a whim I decided to try it.

Two days after I screwed on the pump lid, I’ve gone through the rest of the cream and have transferred the pump to a new jar.

Happy Pump Lid

Amazing how something small like that can increase usage so dramatically. I think back as to why the old jar lasted me so long – it was because there was always an easier option around – a tube with a pop lid, a dispenser, something that was easier even if it wasn’t as good.

Imagine being the producer of a great product, a product that was clearly superior to everything else out there, but it was always a second or third choice because of how it was packaged and dispensed. The packaging and the dispensing is the user interface for the cream. And it was really holding the core product back.

If the cream manufacturer had given away the pump lid – something that probably cost less than 50 cents to manufacture – I would have gone through three jars instead of just one in the same time, increasing revenues and customer satisfaction at the same time.

When you build accessories/add-ons that make your product easier to use and increase usage, give that stuff away like candy! Your main goal is to get people to use and love your product. Anything that makes that easier is only a good thing.