Book Review: Subject to Change - Sound Business Strategy for a Changing World
Subject to Change, by Peter Merholz, Brandon Schauer, David Verba and Todd Wilkens (all of design firm Adaptive Path), is required reading for anyone looking to gain a competitive edge in a feature-saturated market. The book argues that, at the end of the day, it’s not the product or service offering the most features or even the best value that wins, but the one offering the best user experience.
Using the original Kodak camera as a jumping off point, the book describes how, by taking the film development process out of the hands of consumers, George Eastman delivered a more pleasant picture-taking experience (“You press the button, we do the rest.”) and helped usher in the age of consumer photography.
In a more contemporary example, the authors illustrate how Apple split up the process of buying, organizing and listening to music over three different interfaces to create a more intuitive user experience for iPod users - one which beat out products like the Rio mp3 player, which came out earlier, did more and cost less.
With illustrations like these, and point-by-point analyses of how to make this approach work, the book outlines “experience strategy,” focusing as much on how your customer will use your product as on what the product is to begin with. “The experience,” the authors explain, “is the product.”
To that end, the book describes the importance of paying attention to and understanding, through observation and interviews, exactly how your customers use what you have to offer. Huggies redesigned two of their products for single-handed operation when research revealed that parents rarely had both hands free when it came time to use them.
The book also addresses the difficulties involved in attempting to employ experience strategy, especially in companies with entrenched development processes. “Procedural overhead can be a huge obstacle to progress,” the authors warn.
If you can design a better user experience than your competitor, you don’t always need vast resources to outsell them. Subject to Change can help you come up with ideas to make that happen.
David Thomas, CEO at Evident, is an accomplished cybersecurity entrepreneur. He has a history of introducing innovative technologies, establishing them in the market, and driving growth – with each early-stage company emerging as the market leader.