The Invisible Customers
I've just finished reading Donald Norman's book "The Invisible Computer: Why Good Products Can Fail, the Personal Computer Is So Complex, and Information Appliances Are the Solution". It's a good book, but, just like its title, it would have been better if made shorter. Norman repeats himself enough that I had to skip several passages out of boredom. The repetition also makes the structure a little hard to grasp; many times I felt like I was reading a previous chapter.
Norman's point is that high-tech products, having been designed by technology buffs for technology buffs, fail to be usable enough to conquer the large market of late adopters. He says information appliances (less versatile but simpler products) will save the day and make life simpler and more enjoyable for the masses. Personally, I'm not too sure about that (and neither is Andrew Odlyzko), mainly because of the interoperability nightmare.
Norman's big piece of advice, that he takes care to highlight in the end of the book, is worth quoting:
"It is always more important to talk to those who are not buying your product than those who are. It is always more important to talk to those who buy a product and complain than those who buy and are satisfied. There are always far more people in the world who do not buy a product than who do. Even if a product is the market leader with 100 percent market share, there are still more people outside the market than within it. The future sales potential lies with those who today are not customers, not with those who are satisfied ones."
This should sound familiar to people who have heard of Clayton Christensen. But I don't think technologists have really heard the message yet because consumers don't have a strong voice (or at least they don't use it), and most aren't conscious of their actual needs. Hopefully this will change as blogs take over. Imagine what would happen if everyone started blogging and saying things like "now I wish there were something that did this. Me and my colleagues/friends would buy it immediately!". (Note that this is already happening on a small scale, e.g. with radio wishlists and places like ShouldExist.)