A little effort goes a long way

X-Posted to Medium

One of my many sub-routines at Crossfit is to use this real-life calculator to figure out how much weight I lifted.

I use a communal computer, an old PC, and a communal calculator and do some quick arithmetic.

It’s a pretty clunky experience in 2017.

The software designer wants to intervene.

This can be put on an improvement roadmap. Remove friction. Increase score input per member. Higher retention. More money.

And hell, in terms of features, building a simple calculator into the product is about as low-hanging as fixing a typo.

It’s not hard to implement and bundle with next release.

But it made me think, how much of Crossfit can software eat?

Maybe it’s a little less than you’d think.

Intangibles can’t be quantified. By definition they slip through the gaps.

But as software makers, we must consider them as integral components of the end to end experience.

At it’s best, software can recreate these real things.

Matt Levine of Bloomberg View argues simulacrum is a central product of the modern technology industry: Facebook Inc.’s business, after all, is creating the perception that you are maintaining meaningful friendships with hundreds of people while you are actually, through the miracle of technology, clicking icons on a screen.

At it’s worst, software sucks the blood out. All that’s left is something that not only isn’t real, but doesn’t even feel real.

Intangibles don’t have to be easy, fun or positive like a high-five or fist bump from a coach. They can be tough. And that’s where I think our calculator fits in.

In Crossfit, it could be lactic acid building up in your muscles or the loud clang of bumper plates hitting the floor. Tidying up after you lift. An embarrassing question of the day’ or the whip of the skipping rope on your shins.

I believe making users work a bit harder, or at least feel like it, can be a good thing for your product. Think of these barriers as placebos.

Rory Sutherland elaborates while speaking with Shane Parrish: There has to be a kind of borderline pain threshold thing…some grit in the oyster…for the placebo to work.” Other well known examples include the medicine-like taste of Red Bull, and Ikea’s insane purchase journey.

As software designers and builders, it’s natural to see everything as an optimization problem. Racing to iron out the ‘kinks’ is not the solution.

September 12, 2017