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June 10, 2008

Avoiding Product Fail

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Yesterday Chris Winfield joked that “fail” was probably the most used word on Twitter and wondered what that said about Twitter in general. I think it says that Twitter is teh suck. However, I also think it means that we’ve finally come to realize how powerful we are as users/consumers/evangelists. We know that our voice counts and we’re not afraid to use it.

Over the past week the blatant fails of Twitter and Amazon have left search marketers with some valuable insights about how to avoid their own fails. Let’s recap some of what we’ve learned, eh?

  • Avoid Failure By Expecting Success: Even from the earliest stages, you need to plan your product or site around the premise that it’s going to be the most successful thing you’ve ever created, that anyone’s ever created! You have to know in your heart that you’ve done the research, that the audience is there, and that you’re about to unleash the most holy of Web applications. If you go in unsure or half invested, your product is going to fail. The founders of Twitter have repeatedly said that the reason Twitter is down 27 hours of every day is because it was never supposed to be successful. It was never supposed to take off.

    Conceptualization Fail.

  • Know What You’re Creating: Reason #108 why Twitter is always down is because it’s designed wrong. Twitter was designed to be an SMS status updater. As a result, it’s built off a content management system, not a messaging system. No wonder we’re always left watching a flock of birds trying to lift a whale ten times its size. If I had to try and manipulate my content management system into a message system, I’d resort to trying to lift and make friends with large mammals too.

    Make sure you have a clear purpose for what you’re designing. What do you want to build? What other uses could it possible have? Users are known for taking your products and doing what they will with them. Anticipate all the ways your product could evolve and account for that. Otherwise, start creating those quirky error pages now. You’ll need something to entertain your audience with while they start researching your replacement.

  • Always Keep It Up: On Friday, Amazon.com went down in the U.S. Search marketers joked that it was a result of the conditional 301 redirects that were talked about during SMX Advanced last week, but it really wasn’t funny. Having your site crash is not an amusing experience. It’s how companies go out of business, even big ones. CNET reported that for every minute Amazon.com remained down in North America, they lost $16,000. Had it been a global outage, that number would have skyrocketed to $31,000. And that doesn’t even include the money they’d miss out on from users going to competitors or the branding they’ve suffered. Methinks Amazon’s not laughing.

    Forget search engine optimization and building links and writing content. If your site crashes unexpectedly, none of that will help you. Make sure you’ve taken the steps needed to keep your site up at all times.

  • Know When NOT to Launch: Okay. I don’t care how sweet your new product or Web site is. There are certain days when you just don’t launch. For example, yesterday was the big Steve Jobs Keynote where he announced the release date for the brand new iPhone. If you’re Samsung, why in the world would you decide to announce the new cell phone that you’re releasing just hours before? You have to know that there isn’t a single person out there listening to you. No one cares about your phone. You’re sitting over there on the far left street corner while everyone else is attending the Apple parade happening on the right. Save your announcement for another day.

    Your product is going to live and die by its initial momentum. Releasing it on a day when your entire industry is busying celebrating your competition is probably not a good idea. Give it 24 hours, retard.

  • Listen to Feedback: No matter how many precautions you take, you’re still going to face some degree of product fail. When that happens, be quick to respond. Create a blog to alert people of your outages, explain why your child-friendly product blew up in their hand and scarred them for life, and just open up a friendly door of communication. Just think, when the feedback starts rolling in, you’ll be able to create your very own feedback fail blog!
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