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Products should be forgiving...


A man who has committed a mistake and doesn't correct it is committing another mistake.—Confucius, Chinese philosopher.

“Uh-oh, I made a mistake. Now what?”

Back in the 80s, Norton Utilities was the tool we used to undelete files. (I forget why we deleted so many files that had to be undeleted but obviously we did it a lot since Norton created a tool to help us.) Today, Dropbox keeps multiple versions and lets you restore a deleted file. I don’t think Apple’s iCloud does but I love Apple’s Time Machine backup, which may do the trick. You can easily recover missing files, emails, calendar entries; just about anything you had once on your Mac can be restored.

Your product must allow customers to make mistakes.

To understand personas and their problems, we have to investigate both their workflow and their environment. Are your personas focused on the task at hand or are they distracted? Are they using your product in an interruptive environment? Are they novices or power-users?

I’m told portable defibrillators are designed for people who are in a panic; they’re designed for novices. The defibrillators literally shout instructions to you, both to get your attention and to ensure people around you can verify you’re doing it right.

From a design standpoint, your teams should plan for mistakes and confusion. Not every process is step-by-step, first A then B. More often, you do half a process and then get interrupted and return later.

Products should allow us to cancel or undo or revert. They should guide the novice persona step-by-step through a process. And they should resume where you left off.

They should be… forgiving.

From a product management standpoint, we need to inform the solution team about the persona’s experience, workflow, working environment, and level of attention. Your team needs this critical information to design the right solution. The more you can get your team to understand the persona and what they’re trying to accomplish, the better your team can design a solution that creates delighted customers.

Our goal is to deliver profitable products that delight customers who tell their friends.

Personas and their stories are part of a healthy product playbook. Do you have a playbook?

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