Steve Jobs was the king of usability

October 5, 2011

Customer Service


A lot of people counted out Steve Jobs early on. I bet most of those people have iPhones now. (Image credit:


A lot of people have been posting Steve Jobs quotes on Twitter and Facebook tonight. This is my favorite:

“We do no market research. We don’t hire consultants. The only consultants I’ve ever hired in my 10 years is one firm to analyze Gateway’s retail strategy so I would not make some of the same mistakes they made [when launching Apple's retail stores]. But we never hire consultants, per se. We just want to make great products.

“It’s not about pop culture, and it’s not about fooling people, and it’s not about convincing people that they want something they don’t. We figure out what we want. And I think we’re pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too. That’s what we get paid to do.”

That pretty much sums up Steve Jobs. First of all, no other CEO could say that and get away with it, whether they were on an earnings call or in a black turtleneck in front of a 350-foot projector screen. But Steve could get away with that…because what he said was true. Channeling Matt Damon in goodwill hunting…when it came to basketball, Michael Jordan could just play. When it came to usability, Jobs could just do.

Think about the Apple products in your life. They’re just part of your daily experience, aren’t they? You don’t have to think about using them. You just use them. They make your life easier. And you don’t really remember what life was like without them.

“I think we’re pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too.”

So many executives out there today do not understand usability. Talk about customer experience and you get a blank stare. Or worse yet, they talk all day about customer experience. But when it comes to really, truly getting what it means, they get a case of 5-guys-in-a-boardroom-disease.

Ever heard of 5-guys-in-a-boardroom-disease? That’s when a company decides to develop a product or launch a campaign based on what five guys in a boardroom think of the idea. That kind of inside baseball will never hit a homerun with customers. And Steve Jobs obviously knew that.

One of my favorite Apple stories goes something like this. When I worked at Sprint, one of my colleagues was a huge Apple fanboy. Ironic, I know, since Sprint was struggling at the time because it didn’t have the iPhone. So I go to lunch with this guy one day and he pulls out one of his iPods. Dude had like four on him. Different colors for every member of his family.

Anyway, he pulls out the iPod and says something like: “You want to know the crazy thing about the iPod?”

“Sure,” I say, not sure at all where this is going.

“This iPod can only hold like a tenth of the music the Microsoft Zune can.” The confused look on my face was me trying to remember what the hell a Zune was. On he went. “The Zune is the BMW of digital music players. It has way more features that the iPod. It can do a ton more things. But you know what the problem is?”

I didn’t know. But by this time I was intrigued enough to shake my head and wait for the answer.

“The problem is that no one wants to read the directions. The Zune has all these bells and whistles like a BMW. But when you pick up the iPod, you just start driving.”

Steve Jobs taught all of us how to drive without any of us ever having to read the directions.

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ElizabethSkeens 6 pts

I like that story. And it's true. When you open your iPhone box, you just see the phone. The directions are very few. Same with my macbook. I remember looking through the directions going, "That's it?" Yes. That's it.