Friday, May 2, 2008

I understand you

So, I go to check my Gmail account like I do on a regular basis. But when I logged in, I noticed something different.

There was this red bar above my inbox:



It turns out that I did indeed have Firebug (a Firefox extension) enabled! And I wouldn't have known it otherwise. Google probably decided to include this feature after getting complaints from users who didn't realize that it was their own stupid fault their mail was loading slowly. Or maybe Google decided to include it out of the kindness of their hearts. Either way, it's pretty cool to see a huge corporation that certainly doesn't need do something like this, take the time to do it. They could have buried the issue somewhere deep inside a FAQ page and left it at that.

In the short-term, spending time to include something that only benefits a small minority of users a small minority of the time is a waste of money. Some developer might have spent a day designing this feature. Google's stock price certainly won't rise the next day because of it. He should have been working on Adsense or something!

But it's the longer term impact that is affected by small enhancements like this. What this is saying isn't "turn off Firebug". It's saying "I know you want to get to your email quickly and Firebug may interfere with that." Or more simply:

"I understand you."

When another product of equal or better quality comes around, if you've been regularly reminding your users that you understand them, they'll be more likely to stick with you during tough times.

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