Suckage to Usage Ratio …

Perfection is overrated… its expensive… and its impossible. Success in Business is not a quest for perfection, may be art is, but business is definitely not. Few months back, 37signals had to say this about one of so called imperfect products – Kindle.

Reading and flipping pages on the Kindle is a wonderful experience. On the other hand, using the keyboard is painful. The keys are hard to press. The modifier keys are confusing. Mistakes are easy to make, slow to spot and hard to correct.

A good way to square the great overall experience with a bad feature is the “suckage to usage” ratio. You can take any feature and say “it sucks,” but that doesn’t tell you anything about the whole product until you factor in how often you use the feature. Have a look at this unscientific chart.

Feature              Suckage (1-5)          Usage        Contribution (1-5)
Reading                       0                        90%                    0
Typing                         5                          3%                     0.15
Switching books        1                          7%                     0.07

Total suckage 0.22

Suppose reading on the Kindle doesn’t suck at all (0 out of 5), typing sucks maximally (5 out of 5), and switching between books sucks a little (1 out of 5). Considering I spend 90% of my time just reading on the device, the contributions add up to a total suckage of only 0.22 out of 5. Inverted, that’s 4.78—basically a 5-star product.

Now while I don’t completely agree with that 5 star rating as consumers would normally magnify their negative experiences many times over the positive ones, the base concept is still a pretty strong indicator.

See, nobody wants to ship the imperfect products… but then somebody has to drop the axe somewhere (& somehow convince all that its all good). ‘When to’ is normally the most difficult question & following steps might help:

  • What all consumer touch points my product has got?
  • How much they suck (if at all)? What is their contribution to overall suckage? [Take into consideration that its not a linear graph… negative emotions get more weightage than positive emotions, how much more depends upon your category]
  • Is overall suckage to usage ratio still pretty low? If yes, ship because once upon a time there was a Duke Nukem Forever

Over to you product and marketing folks.