My five second rule for product management

Last month I talked about my five second rule for prospecting. It is a synopsis based on my years of experience selling consulting services to corporate clients.

Well, guess what - the same human factors that expose the five second rule for prospecting apply to product design and management. That is: you've got five seconds to give a prospective customer or product user a reason to keep learning about your product. Or five seconds to figure out how to use a particular aspect of your product. And with products, the reality is that you have less than five seconds.

Why are point-and-click cameras so popular? Why is Google home page so productive? Why are home shopping channels so popular and profitable? They make things easy for the customer. Not necessarily efficient, not necessarily high performance, not necessarily powerful, but easy.

I am going to pick on my favorite travel site, Expedia. Go to their "get help" page, and you are treated with a plethora of options. I don't have time or bandwidth to sort through their site. Instead, why not ask why I am here? Present five options, I click one, I move on. Now present me with five me options. I click one, I move on. Oops, wrong move, I back up. Better slim down my choices than abandon before I can figure out my next move.

On a related note, to the extent possible, don't make the customer think. Information should be where customers expect it. Product behavior should be what they expect. Why when I use my oven when the timer is running I can't turn it off? Invariable I end up turning off the oven, then restarting. Why are they making me think and fumble through this? Your customers don't have time for unnecessary conveniences.

Just like my five second rule for prospecting, this is not rocket science. Retail stores organize themselves for this reason. Apple simplified MP3 players for this reason, and integrated the ability to download music to an MP3 player for this reason.

Get back to designing your products. You have five seconds to capture your customer.