John Cowen

John Cowen

User Experience • Design • Creativity

Clarity in your online strategy


In 1997 when Steve Jobs returned to Apple, they were only a couple of months from going out of business.

Jobs' first steps were to cut Apple's desktop computer range from 15 models to 1. He cut back the handheld and laptop models to a single laptop. He got rid of the peripherals and printer divisions entirely.

These changes didn't immediately revolutionise Apple, but it did consolidate the business and make it profitable enough to, at least, stay in business.

In his book 'Good Strategy Bad Strategy' Richard Rumelt talks about an interview he had with Jobs a year after implementing these changes. He asked Jobs what his strategy was for taking Apple beyond it's niche market and becoming competitive with the bigger players in their sector. Jobs' reply was: "I'm going to wait for the next big thing".

The next big thing happened to be the iPod and iTunes, which led to the iPhone, iPad and, as we're all well aware, has turned Apple into one of the biggest companies on the planet.

What I like so much about Jobs strategy is his clarity.

The product lineup before his return had become bloated because of demands from their resellers. Apple had lost sight of their own business strategy in their eagerness to help resellers achieve their own goals.

Helping customers isn't a bad thing of course, but you also need to think about what's good for your business, as a whole, ahead of creating services or products for particular groups.

We see this happen a lot online. Certain user groups will request a presence on some new social media platform, or ability to perform some service or other online. The requests from that group might be valid, but don't add any value for any other of that organisations customers.

If you cater for a few different demographics, they'll likely each have a few such requests. Before you know it there's an awful lot of new features you're having to support and dedicate resource to.

Before you know it you're spending all your time supporting lots of edge case services and neglecting the fundamentals. You need to retain clarity and consider if it is for the greater good to not accommodate requests from different user groups and focus only on the features that will benefit all customers - and be able to give this your full attention.

You made it to the bottom! Thanks for reading.

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