Fitbit Flex – Product Review 4


Attribute #1. Delivers on a singular value proposition in a world-class way (purpose): Grade – A+
When I was gifted the fitbit, my understanding was that I was getting a product that counted my steps. Fitbit has and continues to nail that use case. I don’t like wearing stuff on my wrist. So, after 6 months of wearing it, I began carrying it in my pocket. I think smaller Fitbit products would suit my use case. But, as long as this continues to work, I don’t expect to buy another Fitbit.

This leads to me to a question – what is the single value proposition of a Fitbit? If it is to track more than steps, it has, then, failed. For instance, when I began using Fitbit, I considered logging other kinds of exercise and my diet. But, that fizzled out quickly as it just felt like too much effort for limited return.

Attribute #2. Simple, intuitive, and anticipates needs (design): GradeC, then B in the last 6 months
Ghe physical product is excellent and works pretty well. It’s been working just fine for 2 years (is that too long for their own sake?) Sure, it gets thrown off if you are on a bumpy car ride, but I’d expect that.

The mobile app, however, was awful for far too long. It regularly lost sync with the Fitbit and needed to be re-installed. It had too many things going on all at once. The most recent version has cleaned up parts of that and focused it around steps and active minutes. That’s great. Simpler is generally better.

However, there are still underlying issues. For instance, the challenges section of the app is meant to be an engagement booster. However, the last time I used it, it needed to be renewed every week. What a drag! The challenges should be ongoing. And, this, to me, is a good indicator of the problems Fitbit has with engagement in my eyes. My “friends” tab reveals 1 active friend and 11 inactive friends. Most folks I know used it enthusiastically for a couple of months and then stopped. So, there’s something not right. Then again, it could just be a small sample.

Attribute #3. Exceeds expectations (customer love): Grade – A
My Fitbit strap broke. I emailed them from Singapore. They mailed 2 straps to Singapore for free. What more can I say?

Attribute #4. Emotionally resonates (feel): Grade – A
I think the product definitely resonates. I feel positive just thinking about my Fitbit in my pocket. It makes me feel like I’m working hard to stay healthy. 

Attribute #5. Changes the user’s life for the better (impact): Grade – A+
I take the stairs at every opportunity. I take the scenic route to the bathroom when I can. And, I try to take as many walks and walking meetings as possible. It definitely has had a positive impact on my life.  

Overall Rating – A-
The product has clearly worked for me. But, if I were a product manager at Fitbit, I would consider the following questions –
Super users. What characterizes Fitbit super users? Are my super users just disciplined folk who’ve gotten hooked to a cool product? Have I succeeded in converting someone who isn’t disciplined / hates exercise into a regular user?
Use cases. How many users use Fitbit primarily for the “counting steps” use case? My guess is that the number is not small. And, if it is not small, what can Fitbit do to make sure they build moats around these users? The Apple Watch (if I had one) would easily take over this use case
Active users. What is the active user : buyer ratio? Have there ever been stories of inactive users (cue: my friends and family) who became active again? How can this churn be reduced?
Non-watch users. Is there a large enough segment of people who don’t want to wear something on their wrists? Can Fitbit experiment with product design that is only intended for a pocket? I think the zip does that but could we be more creative? For example, can create a Fitbit like device that works similar to the nametags / badges that most office employees have? (this is both a product and business development idea as employers are working hard to promote ideas around wellness)

I am glad about Fitbit’s IPO. As you can tell from my many questions, a part of me does worry for the future of the company. Looking forward to seeing how it evolves.

The Skimm – Product Review 3

TheSkimm

Attribute #1. Delivers on a singular value proposition in a world-class way (purpose): Grade – B
In my opinion, the Skimm exists to make sure you never feel stupid during a discussion of the news. The value proposition of the Skimm isn’t just synthesis of news. It is never walking into a discussion with a fear that you may be perceived as someone who doesn’t even keep up with the news. It delivers on that value proposition very well.

However, I give it an B because I think it targets readers in the US and does well to serve this demographic. I do find myself wondering if they could provide more color on what happens globally. At the very least, I’d love to have that option.

Attribute #2. Simple, intuitive, and anticipates needs (design): Grade – A
This is an area where The Skimm does really well. The email shows up every morning and is typically a 5-7 minute read. They pick out around 5 key pieces of news and ensures you know enough to be going on with while also having options to click through in case you are reading more.

The Skimm understands that users want a byte sized news meal in the morning. And, it delivers on this really well.

Attribute #3. Exceeds expectations (customer love): Grade – A
I’ve had no reason to feel anything less than satisfied. I definitely love it and recommend it.

Attribute #4. Emotionally resonates (feel): Grade – A+
Another strength. The Skimm is witty and fun. This personality is a big part of what makes it an enjoyable read.

As I review products, I am learning that emotional resonance is so critical. Products can’t just be functional. They need to have an identity. And, the Skimm feels like that smart, witty friend who always has something interesting to say.

Attribute #5. Changes the user’s life for the better (impact): Grade – A
I’ve experimented a lot with my consumption of the news over the years. I think it is important to stay abreast of what is going on. However, I also think spending an hour reading the news isn’t going to be my preference. So, I’ve ended up zero-ing on reading headlines and a short description on my Feedly / feed reader and defaulting to The Skimm for a slightly more in-depth read.

It has definitely had a positive impact.

Overall Rating – A
Really simple and really well done. I think it is the emotional resonance that sets the Skimm apart. The team recently celebrated the 3rd birthday – congratulations and well done.

PS: Click here if you are interested in subscribing to the Skimm

Chevron Pump – Product Review 2

Chevron Gas Pump

I had a product moment when I was refueling over the weekend. As is often the case with refueling, my mind was on auto-pilot. The fuel system was very good – no hitches until I had to pick the grade of fuel I wanted. My hand naturally moved towards clicking the button on the left. But, just as I was about to press it, I stopped.

“91” was written on the button. And, there seemed to be lower numbers next to it. By now, my brain was getting out of auto-pilot mode. Ah – so, Chevron had the most expensive product on the left while my natural instinct was to expect the cheapest variant on the left. I chose regular and smiled at the smart product design.

3 questions emerged –
1. Is there a real difference between the 3 variants of fuel? I tend to be skeptical of such variants and view them largely as pricing gimmicks.
2. How much more had Chevron earned due to other users who’d clicked the “Supreme” variant out of instinct?
3. Assuming users generally realized they picked the most expensive variant by mistake (and assuming people don’t normally do that), does this happen more than once? I’d imagine people are on their guard the next time they refuel.

Small changes in products can make a big difference. Companies like Facebook have run millions of experiments on which locations optimize clicks, for example. And, a big part of smart product design is understanding “auto-pilot” behavior – both to make the product intuitive as well as, in cases like this, to monetize.

 

Audible app for iOS – Product Review 1

A big part of this blog has been about learning “how to see.” I see failure as learning today. And, getting to that has been an incredible journey. I’ve wanted to learn how to “see” and understand products for a while now. So, thanks to a suggestion from a wise friend, I’m going to review interesting products and services. In looking at products and services critically, I hope to understand what makes great products/services and also develop an awareness while I use them so I can, hopefully, design great experiences myself.

My framework for reviews will be based on Jeff Weiner’s 5 attributes of a great product. Hope you enjoy these posts.


 

My first product will be Audible’s app for iOS.

Attribute #1. Delivers on a singular value proposition in a world-class way (purpose): Grade – A+
The Audible app exists to enable users to read audio books. It does that better than any other app out there. The Audible audio book library is fantastic and the app ensures easy access to it.

Attribute #2. Simple, intuitive, and anticipates needs (design): Grade – C
The app does okay on being simple and intuitive. You click it open, pick a book from “your library” and start reading. The other tabs are easy to understand.

I definitely think there still is room for improvement – for example –
– I’d like it to play and pause no matter where I touch
– I wonder if the “more” tab could do with less options
– I wish they did something useful with the badge collection
– And, I’d love for them to analyze my reading data and push insights and/or reminders to read

However, it isn’t a bad experience so I would still give it a B. But, it gets a C because it fails in anticipating my needs. Audible has great improved its app over time but its recommendation engine / “Discover” tab remains woeful. For instance, I have 91 titles and a quick scan will tell you that I read certain kinds of book on audible – always non fiction with a heavy bias to topics like psychology and technology. And, yet, the Discover tab never does anything except list out current fiction best sellers.

Attribute #3. Exceeds expectations (customer love): Grade – A+
I have contact Audible many times over the past 7 years and I’ve been well taken care of every time. And, every once a while, I’ve been blown away. They do a great job here.

Attribute #4. Emotionally resonates (feel): Grade – A+
3 words that come to mind when I think of how Audible makes me feel – learning, productive, and happy. 

Attribute #5. Changes the user’s life for the better (impact): Grade – A+
I’ve been thankful to Audible many a time over the past years. It has helped me read a lot and enabled me to learn and grow as a person. Definitely among the highest impact app that’s been an ever present on my home screen and the quick access bar.

Overall Grade – A-
The team has improved the app a lot over the years. And, I’m hoping the team keeps improving. It is a “star” product. A few changes could make it an “all star” product.

Fitbit and lifestyle

Since receiving a Fitbit as a wedding gift from a couple of close friends 2 years ago (thanks guys!), I’ve carried a Fitbit around most days. Thanks to traveling to my California, my new temporary location, without my fitbit charger, I went three weeks without wearing a Fitbit. As far as my lifestyle went, I’d been exercising as per normal. So, I assumed all was normal.

I finally managed to borrow a charger on Monday and realized within a few hours that all was actually not normal. I was barely walking a couple of thousand steps a day. I walk a lot more from home to school on normal days but, thanks to driving everywhere here, there’s barely any walking done. So, I stopped taking the elevator on Monday and have been trekking up and down our five floor building since. The step counts are getting closer to normal and I feel much happier.

I realized 3 things –

1. It is so easy to let things slip when you don’t measure them. The degradation may be gradual but it is degradation nevertheless.

2. Not walking much may seem like a small thing. But, over time, the effects of these small habits compound. Leading a healthy lifestyle, in my eyes, involves standing enough (go standing desks!), walking enough and exercising. And, the 10,000 steps on Fitbit / 8.7km / 5.4 miles is a great proxy for whether I’ve walked enough in a day.

3. I love how transformative a product can be. I know there are many fitness trackers out there these days but I associate the whole space with my Fitbit. I just want to express my gratitude to the Fitbit team for what they’ve done. To anyone on the Fitbit team who’s reading this, congratulations on your IPO – well deserved!