Tag: UI Design

Startups, Operational Scale, and Adaptive User Interfaces

I believe that many startups leave a lot of money on the table because they don’t properly target prosumers, that market segment willing to pay a premium or a subscription fee for an application or a service.

Sometimes the difference between a standard consumer and a prosumer boils down to operational scale. One thing is processing 3-5 emails per day. Another thing is processing 30-50 (or even 300-500) of them per day.
The scale at which your user needs to process information thought your app or service enormously impacts, or at least it should, the user interface design and decisions. Managing information at scale requires more sophisticated UI controls or even a different design. However, a sophisticated UI scares away your average consumer, to the point that most startups rule them out as too complex almost immediately.

Feedly is a good example. When Google announced its regretful decision to shut down Reeder, Feedly immediately took the opportunity and welcomed disgruntled users with open arms. However, when the horde of information junkies arrived it immediately complained for the existing UI, not designed to process a huge amount of news items. Feedly addressed the demand, adding a new UI variant that replicates Google Reader (tip #1).

So Feedly approach was offering multiple UI variants, appealing average consumers and prosumers like former Google Reader users. It was a good move. Is there a different approach, a potentially more efficient way?
Maybe the answer is an adaptive user interface that intelligently understands the operational scale (how many emails do I have in my inbox? 5 or 500?), formatting information (for example, how the list of emails looks) and exposing control elements (for example, mass selection buttons or boolean operators in the search field) accordingly, only when needed.
An adaptive design doesn’t scare away your average consumer and pleases the prosumer audience.

Regardless, the main point here is that most startups design their products with little to no consideration that the same identical problem (for example, email management or news consumption) must be addressed in different ways, depending on the operational scale, to retain efficiency.
If an app is wonderfully designed but is slow and cumbersome to use at scale, prosumers are not enticed to buy it (and you would be surprised by how common this mistake is even amongst startups targeting the enterprise market, where processing information at scale is the norm, not the exception).