The missing feature (or, the partial feature)

It happens often: you wait for a specific capability and one day your vendor supplies it. Excited, you rush to the product, to test it out.. the feature is there! But — you can’t really use it. Something crucial is missing. That self-explanatory next step is simply not there. It is frustrating to miss out on capabilities you think should be there, but it is even more frustrating when the capabilities are “half-baked”


Here is a fairly recent example: Amazon has recently launched its “book lending” feature for Kindle. This is a capability already introduced by the competition, which basically seeks to emulate the paper book equivalent of giving a book to a friend. When the book is “on loan” you can’t read it, but your friend can. This is pretty exciting, now you can recommend books to your peers and share the experience with them. Presumably, your peers would like to purchase the title for themselves: 14 days is a really short period to read a book. This has the potential of being a viral income generator for the already very successful product.

So, I rushed to try it out and hit upon the very first stumble block: there is no way to share the names of the titles you own with your peers! I can imagine the moans coming from social network savvy readers. Where is the facebook app that allows you to tell the world what you’ve read?

Well, there is this app, which does nothing for your digital library, but does let you know what birthdays are coming up and what’s on your friends wish lists, but not digital content centric, definitely not “lending-centric”. There is this Linkedin app which is not about lending but more like a vanity list of books you’ve read. Finally there is the Amazon web page for Kindle, it has a “your books” section, you can mark books as public or private, but… how do you share the list? Amazon helpfully quotes: “Your reading statuses and ratings for books that are public will appear on Your Profile”, but where IS that profile? try as I did, I was unable to find it. There is a well hidden “people” section in Amazon, but search results there are limited to top three.

Lesson learned. When designing a feature, think not only about that specifically, but also about the end-to-end experience. Don’t rush. It’s better to have a superb end-to-end experience, then to drive off the early adopters, who will probably never return.

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