Case Study: Product launch gone awry

Ganesh, the Product Manager of a B2B stand alone Windows application was at the water cooler when he bumped into Arif, the Tech Support Manager. With the new version of his product just having been launched a week before, Ganesh was eager to know the adoption by the key customers. He asked Arif if he saw adoption of the new version and were there any issues that were impeding adoption. Arif promised to check back on a few accounts that he handled and get back. Later in the day Arif comes back – this time an otherwise happy man looks a bit worried. He says that one of the top customers (a fortune 10 company) do not simply want to upgrade to our new version as they feel it is a retrograde from the previous version. Ganesh was shocked. He had carefully baby-sat this release drastically improving the core functional aspects related to performance and he had benchmarked results for the same. The software ran 2X faster. Took half the memory foot print. Was almost crash-proof (the earlier version crashed at least once every week of usage). Ganesh had all reasons to be shocked. Ganesh picked up the phone to call Gordon, the contact at that customer place to find out what exactly was the reason. Gordon, a polite but firm person says “Ganesh, I understand the improvements that you have made to the product. But our users here feel that the new UI just sucks. The users like the old UI. Some of them feel that the whole UI has been taken back to the nineties”. Now it began to dawn on Ganesh that he had in the process of these “drastic” improvements “enhanced” the UI as well. Removed quick access options. Modified the main window of the UI quite a bit. Users required two clicks instead of one to complete the most common operation. The icons were a bit sober and not perfectly appropriate – but Ganesh thought that did not matter as the functionality was getting improved. What went wrong?

  • Emphasis on core functionality not positioned: The product’s new version’s core USP was never positioned in a compelling manner. This probably drove the customer to completely look at it from just a User Interface angle even though the product was not only about user interface.
  • User Interaction relegated to background: Improvements in core functionality MUST always help the basic need of the user. Every click or every key pressed by the user must be carefully analyzed and eliminated. If you cannot do anything, at least do not introduce new clicks or key press or anything that increases user effort. Nothing annoys the user more than having to exert more than what one is used to.
  • Visual design was almost forgotten: You have no more than 50 milli-seconds to make a first impression. One cannot afford to ignore the visual aspects of the design in terms of the icons, the dimensions and so on. All these together definitely makes the user try your product and not just take a cursory look at it.

Ganesh needs to go back to the white-board and get the user interaction and visual design align with core functionality. Another question is that, would a beta of the product really have addressed this catastrophe? Also, should Ganesh be so worried about an adverse remark by one customer?

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