I am a recent Apple convert. I made the painful though glorious switch to Mac in May and moved from Android to iPhone at about the same time. I own an iPad, simultaneously the coolest piece of technology I own and the most expensive paper weight in my house, and I still use my iPod Nano, the only piece of Apple technology I own that is more than a year old.
Yes, Jobs was an extraordinary innovator. Yes, Jobs was a marketing genius. But, more than anything, Jobs was a leader obsessed with the customer experience.
Community member Leon Noone emailed me an excellent Harvard Business Review piece a few weeks ago entitled The Hidden (in Plain Sight) Legacy of Steve Jobs by Bill Lee. Lee discusses some great points about Jobs’ customer focus (also a few I think would be dangerous to extrapolate to non-tech industries) but most telling was this point:
Don’t be obsessed with technical details, but do be obsessed with the details of customer experience
Jobs is supposedly obsessed with every detail that goes into Apple devices. Not so. He focuses on the details relevant to the customer’s experience. When one of Apple’s design teams was tasked with developing a DVD-burning software program for high-end Macs, developers spent weeks putting together a plan. On the appointed day to present it to Jobs, they brought pages filled with prototype information, pictures of the new program’s various windows and menu options, along with documentation showing how the application would work. When Jobs walked into the meeting, he didn’t so much as look at any of the plans. He picked up a marker, went to a whiteboard and drew a rectangle, representing the application. He then told them what he wanted the new application to do. The user would drag the video into the window, a button would appear that said “burn,” and the user would click it. “That’s it, that’s what we’re going to make,” he said.
Steve Jobs never lost site of the end user. Despite his products being fawned over by tech types across the spectrum, Jobs did not design his products for the Robert Scobles of the world; he designed them for the entire world.
Jobs knew that in a technology-based industry, a great customer experience involved a product people wanted to use, that accomplished its tasks reliably, and which confronted them with the underlying technology as little as possible. He understood that the workings behind a great customer experience should be invisible.
From the iPad to the Apple store, Jobs’ obsession was not technology for technology’s sake but technology for the sake of optimizing the customer experience. Jobs understood that a great customer experience should involve both function and form, striving to achieve an almost Zen-like symbiosis between the two.
An Apple product should just do, and be — and, in some sense, should help bring a sense quietude, nay peace, to the user.
Steve Jobs helped bring that feeling to millions of people across the world. I can only hope that he is experiencing it now.
requiescat in pace