Second Place Rules

Long term, second place can pay off in spades. I see second place more as a second chance than a loss. Watching someone else cross the finish line ahead can empower you with the drive to improve and an insight into the victor’s foundational success strategy. Knowledge and motivation in hand, you have the key ingredients to better yourself against the competition.

On several occasions, I’ve had the pleasure of following the first in line. I was the second graduating class of my high school, so I watched an entire group of kids go through the ropes before me (always being an upperclassman definitely had its perks). We had the opportunity to fix their mistakes and build on their accomplishments. It was a great deal.

I’ve seen companies beat my ideas to the market. A sad day turns happy when you start to find all the flaws in their approach and the opportunity to perform differently or better. You can refocus your efforts and take more informed strategic bets in the space. Also a great deal.

No, you did not cross the finish line first this time. I’m sorry. But next time, you can win the race and break records in brilliant form. All great athletes lose every once in a while. If they didn’t, they would get bored with winning and have no room to grow. Growth is important. A challenge is a great thing. Competition makes the world go round.

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Would You Use Your Own App?

Before launching your app into any application marketplace, you should test for demand. That’s business 101. But before doing that, there is an easy way to pre-test the market for interest: honestly ask yourself, “Would I use my own product?” It amazes me how few people ask this question. We are all parents of our creations, so of course we’d say yes. But like parents raising children, we can’t all realistically say our children are physically fit and attractive. Some can. Others would have to make a case. It’s the same thing for products and services. We can’t all say that our tools are useful, amazing or accessible. If that were always the case, failure wouldn’t exist.

When designing a piece of software, put yourself in a user’s shoes. How hard is it to get started using the app? How much privacy must I compromise? Is it fun to use? Will my friends think I’m cool if I use it? Is it better than another app I use that does the same thing? If you don’t like the answers to your own questions, your users won’t either. Do not be afraid to return to the drawing board, especially when you cannot completely endorse your own product. Save yourself the time and shame if, deep down, you know the truth.

The Ugly Path to Beautiful Design

Design is difficult. Perfectionists want to nitpick until they are blue in the face. Most never finish satisfied. The few who feel they got it just right invariably get torn apart by the public or by passing time. Burdened by stress herein, many never finish at all.

Beautiful design seldom comes from a single stroke or first draft. It takes iteration upon iteration to arrive at success. The path to creating widely accepted design depends entirely on feedback. No single designer wields a universal sensibility, so each design must be put to the test.

No matter how focused or specific your target audience is, you have no way to inherently know how to approach the look and feel of your creation until you drop your pants and present it.

Put out something ugly first so people can call it ugly and help you define what pretty is. Listen to the criticism carefully and identify the common taste denominator woven throughout your core audience. Without compromising your vision, steer work in that direction. Before long, your audience, you, and your design may find common ground.

The Difference Between Apps and Applications

The market is completely saturated with programs. Competition is thick, discoverability low, and redundancy rampant. Every fool and his grandmother are “building an app.” Companies scribble code together just to say they have one, too. I mean, seriously, why the flying hell would I need a Quiznos app?

The joke? “There is an app for that.” Not funny anymore. Why? Because apps like Virtual Lighter cramp valuable shelf space and bury applications that could otherwise have a profound impact on our culture and way of life. As a user and developer, I want to differentiate between “apps” and “applications” in hopes of quelling the former and promoting the latter:
 

  • Apps have narrow vision. Applications have boundless vision.
  • Apps tackle singular functions. Applications tackle multiple related functions.
  • Apps debug. Applications scale.
  • Apps live on devices. Applications live beyond devices.
  • Apps breathe task-based missions. Applications breathe mission-based tasks.
  • Apps are features in disguise. Applications are platforms for numerous integrated features.
  • App has three letters. Application has eleven.
  • Apps code quickly and can be completed. Applications continue to adapt and evolve.
  • Apps are popularized by mass use. Applications are commoditized by mass use.
  • Apps eat free time for breakfast. Applications eat apps for breakfast.
  • Apps are useful in defined use cases. Applications are useful in undefined use cases.
  • Apps are built by programmers and designers. Applications are built by communities.


Please contribute to the list and share it with your app junkie neighbor. Support the development of rich and meaningful applications.