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One thing that I have been thinking about for the last couple of days is a quote that I read in EST (it's the title of this post). It's all about how no matter how good something is, the important thing, and how it will be judged is, how good the users *think* it is. This isn't a new thought, but it still keeps me thinking. In the story, the guy bought a PDA (comm) that comes back from "sleep" right away, without the 30 seconds of start-up every other one does. But when he got it, he figured out that you couldn't really do anything when it started up right away. What it did was take a screen shot when it went to sleep, and on reboot displayed this until all the other start-up stuff was done. And (in the story), it actually made it 3 seconds longer. But people bought it because it seemed faster.
There are lots of examples of this in real life. Liz told me about how in most detergents they have a frothing agent. This doesn't do anything, but people think that if there are bubbles, it is good soap. No bubbles, no good.
Another older story about Northern Telecom and how they were testing out a new handset phone. In all of the user studies it failed because everyone said they "felt cheap". What was the solution for the engineers who had made this nice, light, cost efficient phone? Well, they just added a small bar of lead to make the phone heavier. People no longer thought they were cheap.
What's the lesson? No matter how good a product you make, no matter how fast / cool / feature loaded / cutting edge it is, you must never ignore the psychology of the users and how they will perceive the product. This is what the difference is between a successful product and a failure.