Making Users Awesome Summary

Book summary of Kathy Sierra's book on O'Reilly available on amazon.

The Book In 400 Words

Kathy's book seeks to answer one question: Given competing equally priced, equally promoted products or services, why are some far more successful than others?

People generally buy products and services to be better at and more deeply experience something, a compelling context like photography or skiing - they buy the means to an end and not the end itself. They want to be expert or "badass" at whatever it is.  Word of mouth - things the buyer says - drive others to purchase products that do this. Even more, others who see someone who is obviously badass and uses the service inspire purchases too.  But broad sustainable success takes more than just testimonials. You have to actually help your customer get better!

Research shows two paths to building expert level skills: deliberate practice and perceptual learning. Deliberate practice works on a fine grain task that you can't really perform yet and achieving 95% reliability over three one hour sessions. Perceptual learning is being exposed to high quality knowledge and skills in a compressed time frame with clear feedback on your ability to understand or do those skills yourself. To create badasses our products and services must help customers do these two things. Not easy - given the person spends a lot of time trying to do things they can't yet do! We have to keep them wanting to try.

First be honest, if them sucking for a while is normal then say so! Second, help them stay connected to their broader goal, their compelling context. They need the ability to recognize when they are making progress and celebrate it. A performance map laying out what they should be able to do based on where they are in their development will help.  Features that help users experience incremental improvement help keep them going.

Willpower to stick with something hard and cognitive tasks, like making decisions within your compelling context, use the same mental resources. So we need to avoid creating cognitive leaks - avoid making them think about the wrong things.

Your design should anticipate and compensate. Don't make them memorize something they won't frequently use. Try to make the right action the most obvious and natural action i.e. affordances. Avoid providing too many options up front - choices are cognitively expensive. Based on where they are provide meaningful choices that help them progress.  As they become more expert enable additional choices.

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