Break your own laws

October 11, 2021

If you've followed my writing for some time, you'll know one of the things I keep repeating is that UX shouldn't be seen as an isolated process or deliverable. Team mates will know I can get extremely frustrated if someone references "delivering UX" as part of a project. UX is part of every process. Everything from the very first strategy sessions to final development and all the ongoing processes as customer feedback starts rolling in. What color combinations or typefaces the visual designer chooses can heavily affect the UX as does the tech stack the developer chooses. What features will be included in the MVP matter just as much as whether a button reads "Submit" or "Hit me baby!" Not saying one is better than the other just that both of them will influence the users' experience. In fact, back in 2016, I wrote a post about the most overlooked feature when it comes to UX (spoiler: it might not be what you think it is).

I was reminded about this while I was reading Derek Sivers book, Anything you want. If you're not familiar with his writing, I highly recommend it. Derek's writing is to-the-point and very thought-through and has always been a huge influence on me. We need to keep things as short as needed rather than aiming for the idea that a book "has to be a certain set of pages". Anything you want is 84 pages and you can finish it in about an hour (just like my two books, both of which I recently redesigned for better readability!).

In the book, Derek shares how one of the small things he changed running CD Baby was an email. Like most businesses, CD Baby sent an email every time an order was shipped and it was, you know, like most shipping confirmations. "Your order has shipped today, here's the tracking, yada yada". Nothing exciting, just purely transactional. Derek then spent 20 minutes crafting this email:

Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow. A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing. Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy. We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved "Bon Voyage" to your package on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Friday, June 6:th. I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as "Customer of the Year". We're all exhausted but can't wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!"Derek Sivers

To no one's surprise, the email created a ton of buzz - if you google "private CD Baby jet", you'll get almost 20,000 hits. It's been featured in Business Insider, ArsTechnica, and by Tim Ferriss as successful marketing. It's easy to think that great user experiences require a ton of time, money, research, and decks in order to work. At the end of the day, we're all humans and whenever we can break through technology with humanity, and a bit of fun, it tends to create better user experiences. This is low cost. This is effective.

When you make a business, you're making a little world where you control the laws. It doesn't matter how things are done everywhere else. In your little world, you can make it like it should be.Derek Sivers

This doesn't just apply to businesses. If you think of it, our apps and products are small businesses themselves. So where can you be able create new laws and improve your user experience?

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