There is an episode in the TV series FRIENDS which serves as a good lesson in Product Design – namely, how NOT to do it.
So, Joey has a girlfriend named Kathy, and her birthday is coming up. He needs to buy something for her, but he doesn’t really know what. On the other hand, his best friend Chandler, who, plot twist, also wants to buy something for her.
The difference? Joey looks for something he thinks should be good for her, using a simple logical approach, and Chandler gets something she truly wants.
(Here, think of Kathy as the final consumer, Joey as someone who takes a simple logical approach for the product, and of course, Chandler is the person who understands what the customer truly needs.)
Let’s have a look.
Joey: It is so hard to shop for girls !
Chandler: Yes it is, at Office max !
Rachel: What did you get her?
[Joey shows a pen]
Chandler: A pen !
Joey: It’s 2 gifts in one, it’s a pen, that’s also a clock. Huh.. haha..
Chandler: Ha.. haan… you can’t give her that !
Joey: Why not?
Chandler: Because she’s not 11!
[Rachel steps in to explain it better to Joey]
Rachel: Honey, what he means by that is, while this is a very nice gift, maybe it’s just not something a boyfriend gives?
[Rachel is trying to take care of his feelings, and wants him to look beyond, but Joey gets defensive and starts explaining why it’s good, so, maybe if you have to explain it like that, that’s a red flag. Anyway, Joey talks about the customer journey..]
Joey: Sure it is. She needs a pen for work, she is writing, she turns it over.. Woah ! It’s time for my date with Joey !
Chandler steps in again, trying to help him, but Joey sorts of gives up.
Now we take another scene, where Chandler has got something for Kathy, and he shows it to other friends…
Chandler: This is for Kathy’s birthday, it’s an early edition of her favorite book.
Rachel: Ooo, The Velveteen Rabbit.. So, this is pretty rare, how did you get that?
Chandler: Oh, it wasn’t a big deal. Just went to a couple of bookstores, talked to a couple of dealers, called a couple of the author’s grandchildren..
Rachel: Honey that’s so sweet..
Phoebe: Yeah what a great way to say I secretly love you roommate’s girlfriend.
Chandler and Joey both solve the same problem, but their ‘product’ ideas are wildly different. Joey does not even ask her, he assumes what Kathy wants. While Chandler is on the other side of the spectrum, he does not ask her, but gives a whole lot of time and attention to figure out what Kathy wants.
I know most people don’t make products taking Joey’s approach, but many come close. It’s the fast and efficient way, sticking bundles of features together. But I do suspect very few make products taking Chandler’s approach, with extreme dedication and care.
This is situation is simple, and of course this is comedy, but it did happen to me (I was thinking like Joey, this feature and that feature, what’s not to like?). I suspect it happens more often than we’d like to believe.
Anyway, here is the video, check it out and see of it reminds you of some situation you were in: