Category: Saeed

Are Your Users Seeing What You Think They Are Seeing?

by Saeed Khan

colour-dress-meme-smallA couple of days ago, my daughters, who are also my reference point for Internet memes, showed me the picture in this link – a shrunken version is to the right — and asked me to describe the colours of the stripes in the dress.

I looked at the picture and then gave my answer.

My younger daughter, nodding in agreement,  look at her older sister somewhat gleefully and said “See, I told you so.”

My older daughter, appearing both disappointed and flustered, looked at me and said “No. You’re wrong.”

At this point, I was rather confused. “What do you mean I’m wrong?” I asked.

They explained the issue to me. My older daughter said, “You should blog about this.”

So what is the issue?

You may  have already read about this dress and it’s colours. It started with this post and it has spread across the web at lightning speed.  Regardless, look at the dress carefully, and answer the question below.

Without giving away the surprise, there are at least 2, and possibly 3 correct answers to the question.

NOTE:  If you want to know more about the answers, it’s easy to find more on the web, but finish reading this post first. :-)

But trust me when I say that 2 people can look at this dress and see COMPLETELY different colours. In fact, ever since my daughters showed me the dress, asked the question and revealed the answer, I’ve been a bit obsessed with the issue.

So…I ran an experiment (spoilers ahead)

On Friday, I opened up this page in my browser and left the browser tab open during the day. Periodically, I would look at the image to see what colour the stripes were.

For most of the day, the stripes were white and gold. But towards the end of the day, I looked at it, and they were now black and blue.

Yes, they had changed colour. And not a subtle change I might say.

I double checked to make sure I hadn’t opened a different window by accident. I hadn’t. The dress HAD changed colour.

My daughter was home from school by that time, and I told her what had happened. She laughed and said she was surprised I had seen both sets of colours.

I then left the house, to pick up my son from school. When I came home, about 20-25 minutes later, I went back into my office and looked at the browser.

The dress was white and gold again. I started laughing out of amazement. I didn’t know what to think.

How could  I look at the SAME image within such a short time span and see such different things?

It’s not an optical illusion; not in any traditional sense.

And then I remembered my daughter’s suggestion to blog about this. So I did some research to understand what was happening.

The answer is context

I’ll let you delve into the mysteries of the colour-changing dress, but it has to do with how your eyes and brain perceive dominant colours. i.e. what your eyes and brain focus on and what is deemed is important.  The same principle  is at play in any application interface that you create.

The context is the job at hand. When a user looks at an interface, they are interpreting it with the context of the actions they need to perform, the goals of those actions and what they know or understand about the interface. i.e. assumed user interface conventions, actions etc.

The interpretations by different user may not be as stark as seeing the same dress in completely different colours, but nonetheless, don’t underestimate the ways people interpret what they see.  What are they focusing on? What are they thinking about? How do they approach the task at hand? These are all questions you need to understand, interpret and embed in the user interface.

And, unlike the women with the dress, your users won’t post on Tumblr or Pinterest or Instagram or elsewhere if they don’t understand how to use your product. In most cases, after a few frustrating minutes — particularly if they’re using a free trial — they’ll move on to one of your competitors, and you’ve lost them for good.


Tweet this: Are Your Users Seeing What You Think They Are Seeing  #UX, #prodmgmt #productmanagement

About the Author

saeed-headshot-colourSaeed Khan is a founder and Managing Editor of On Product Management, and has worked for the last 20 years in high-technology companies building and managing market leading products. He also speaks regularly at events on the topic of product management and product leadership. You can contact him via Twitter @saeedwkhan or via the Contact Us page on this blog.

4 lessons Product Managers can learn from Target’s failure in Canada

by Saeed Khan

target-no-heart-canadaTarget is a retail giant in the United States, with about $75 Billion in revenue and over 1,800 stores nationwide. In 2012, Target announced it would open stores in Canada; it’s first international expansion beyond the United States.

In March 2013 Target opened it’s first stores in Canada, quickly expanding to over 130 stores across the country within the first year.

And then, less than 2 years after opening it’s first stores in Canada, Target announced that they were closing ALL Canadians stores, and laying off all 17,000+ employees including some at their Minneapolis headquarters who were hired to oversee the Canadian operations.

The state of the failure is significant, with almost $5 billion to be written off by Target.

How did Target fail so miserably and what can we learn from this fiasco?

1. Understand and meet market expectations


disappointment valley  right-arrow-small

First, it’s important to understand Canadian consumers. We loved shopping in Target stores in the US. They have good prices, good merchandise selection (many items not available in Canada) and very helpful staff. When shopping at a large retail store, what else could one want?

When Target announced they were going to open stores in Canada, many Canadians expected those same attributes — price, selection, service — to be part of the Target experience in Canada. Sadly, that was not the case. Prices were mediocre, selection was poor and the service was nowhere near what it was in the US.

Great Customer Service (in the US)

For example, I was once in a Target store in Sunnyvale California. I asked one of the  staff where I could find a clothing item, and the person literally walked me across the store and pointed out exactly where that item was and made sure it was what I was looking for. He then walked back across the store, I’m assuming to resume what he was doing.

This level of service  was nowhere to be found in the Target stores in Canada. The staff were competent, but competent is not memorable, and certainly didn’t meet expectations set by their American coworkers.

Tweet this: 4 lessons Product Managers can learn from Target’s failure in Canada #prodmgmt #target



Why do Startups Fail?

by Saeed Khan

success-failThere’s no shortage of reasons why startups fail.  You can find lots of articles on the web with lists of reasons. But I hadn’t seen anything analytic until now.

I saw the following graphic mentioned in a Tweet recently.

It is from a company called CB Insights and is based 101 startup postmortems.

Now the data set is small, and may not be statistically valid everywhere — e.g. are startups in India failing for the same reasons as startups in the US? — but it’s a good data set none the less. Note that the sum of the percentages is greater than 100%, so I can only assume that companies had multiple issues

The most common reason for failure, by far(!), is “No Market Need”.  And if you look further down, you see “Ignore Customers” and “Product Mis-Timed”, which in my opinion, are almost the same as “No Market Need”.

Top 20 reasons startups fail

While not completely surprised by these findings, the fact that the number one reason is so far ahead of ALL other reasons DOES surprise me. It indicates one of two things. Either that there is still a LOT of work to do to teach startups how to identify markets, or people will pursue business ideas rather blindly regardless of what the market opportunity really is.

Here are a couple of the examples cited in the article, but I encourage you to read or view some of the postmortems. They are very interesting case studies.

Product: Patient Communicator

I realized that many of the true money-making businesses in healthcare really aren’t about optimizing delivery of primary care. This is a longer discussion but I realized, essentially, that we had no customers because no one was really interested in the model we were pitching.  Doctors want more patients, not an efficient office.

See full postmortem here.

Product: VoterTide

We didn’t spend enough time talking with customers and were rolling out features that I thought were great, but we didn’t gather enough input from clients. We didn’t realize it until it was too late. It’s easy to get tricked into thinking your thing is cool. You have to pay attention to your customers and adapt to their needs.

See full postmortem here.


Tweet this: Why do startups fail? #prodmgmt #startups

About the Author

saeed-headshot-colourSaeed Khan is a founder and Managing Editor of On Product Management, and has worked for the last 20 years in high-technology companies building and managing market leading products. He also speaks regularly at events on the topic of product management and product leadership. You can contact him via Twitter @saeedwkhan or via the Contact Us page on this blog.



Is Microsoft HoloLens the next Microsoft Surface Table?

by Saeed Khan

Microsoft created a lot of buzz recently with the announcement of the HoloLens display. See the video below for an overview if you are not familiar with it.

It’s an augmented reality headset that includes numerous positional/directional sensors and is accessible via APIs for developers to build applications on it. Sort of a Google Glasses but on steroids.

The YouTube video above shows a number of proposed commercial (e.g. design) and consumer (e.g. gaming or father helping daughter repair plumbing) applications.

While I can see some benefits in the design and obviously in the gaming use cases, it’s pretty hard to fathom a consumer buying and using the HoloLens for a household repair job or anything mundane for that matter. Remember the fad of 3D TV that occurred a few years ago? Where is it now?

If we won’t wear very light 3D glass for something passive like watching a movie, why would we wear larger, clunky glasses for more complex and involved tasks?

I can’t help it, but the HoloLens reminds me of this scene from the movie Johnny Mnemonic. Watch until 46:15 – or watch the whole movie if you have time. :-)

Perhaps if the headset could be replaced by contact lenses…..

Remember the Surface Table?

Back in 2007, Microsoft was touting the Surface Table. See the video below.

While Apple was launching what would become the most successful phone ever, Microsoft was promoting a $10,000 coffee table.  I played with the Surface Table in 2008 or 2009 and it was definitely cool technology, but really didn’t solve any problems people had. After all, coffee tables are not very mobile. Someone actually created a very good spoof video of Surface Table.

I see similarities between Surface Table and HoloLens. Unfortunately, they are not positive ones.

  1. Lack of availability — When Microsoft announced Surface Table, you couldn’t buy it. Right now, you also cannot buy HoloLens. It’s not clear when HoloLens will be available — even in beta.
  2. No compelling use cases — Surface Table didn’t solve, and HoloLens today doesn’t solve problems or deliver new capabilities that people really need.  Surface Table’s use cases were: organizing photos, spinning them them around, viewing maps and finger painting? Really? Similarly HoloLens’ use cases don’t look very compelling either.
  3. Size factor — HoloLens would definitely be fun for gamers, but the headsets are too big and obtrusive for more general use by the public. Surface Table was also big and obtrusive.
  4. Hype — There is far too much hype and not enough substance here.  Microsoft’s use of the word “hologram” to describe what HoloLens projects is wrong. Let’s be clear,  HoloLens does NOT display holograms. It’s augmented reality using the visor.

When marketing starts sounding like science fiction, the benefits are likely fantasy.tweetit

What do you think? Do you see value in HoloLens?


Tweet this: Is Microsoft HoloLens the next Microsoft Surface Table? #prodmgmt #hololens #windows10

About the Author

Saeed Khan is a founder and Managing Editor of On Product Management, and has worked for the last 20 years in high-technology companies building and managing market leading products. He also speaks regularly at events on the topic of product management and product leadership. You can contact him via Twitter @saeedwkhan or via the Contact Us page on this blog.

4 Rules for Better Customer Visits

by Saeed Khan

We all visit customers. There are many goals to such visits:

  • to gain deeper insight into how they are using the product
  • to understand what benefits they are seeing
  • to identify what issues they are facing
  • to convey product direction
  • to learn about the problems they need to solve (and thus enhancements they need)

Getting the most out of customer visits takes planning and thought. Experience also helps. :-) I know that my firs customer visits were fraught with mistakes, making them far less valuable than they could have been.

Here are some rules to follow to help you get the most out of those visits.

Rule #1 – Know thy customer

customer_visit_rule_12-seal-penguins  right-arrow-small


Ever had a customer visit go bad? It’s happened to me once or twice. If the customer has a blocking issue with your product and it’s causing them a lot of grief, expect an earful. There may be other reasons that the visit is not a good one, but if your company has information about the customer that is relevant to the meeting, then you need to know about it.

It doesn’t matter to your customer that Support cases are difficult to access or that the account manager doesn’t share information with you. That’s  your problem to solve.

Tweet this: Rules for Customer Visits – Rule 1 – Know thy customer #prodmgmt