The Birth of a Product
Most births are planned, or so the parents would have us believe, but we all know that most births are accidents. And this is probably true for all things, including software products. One of my favorite products, ScreenPen was born in a very normal fashion. By pure accident. And for the record, all of WA's products are one of my favorite products.
During one of our design projects, we had created a presentation that was used by our client over 800 times, in less than 1 year. And the feedback must have been good, because they invited us to create a brand new presentation for the next year. Having tasted blood the first time, satisfying this client was going to be a nightmare. And to add to our woes, they wanted the presentation to convey their technological competence. This, their think tank, felt could be achieved by using various transitions, readily available in PowerPoint. Telling them that it was amateurish and only something to be attempted by 6th graders & incompetent sales managers, who had no creativity, fell on deaf ears.
The right option was to give in. But that would have been easy, and we, like most people with pretensions of being creative, refused to take that route. Our only option was to create something that would get the client think-tank to change their mind. Like Bush's Shock and Awe theory, which may not have worked, but sounded real good, our think tank came up with a plan. So simple, that it almost got thrown out, until better sense prevailed, and we decided to give it a shot. The idea was a product that could solve the top 3 issues while making a presentation. Not having a million dollar R&D budget or a market survey budget, we made a few guesses, and came up with our list of top 3 problems. They were, writing - you need an independent white or black board; highlighting - you use a laser pointer, but it’s not very effective and magnifying - you want to make a point, but no one can see it. And thus was born the 1st functionality requirements of a software.
And then was the easy part (or difficult part, depending on your point of view). We also concluded that, if we could get our product to work across other material typically used at presentations, like web pages, pdf files, excel sheets, ... then it would be even more wonderful. And if you could highlight, instead of just writing wouldn't that be nice? And if you could choose your own colors and thickness of pens, wouldn't that be super cool?? ... And thus was born the wish list. This was getting complex. And the mantra for successful products, we believed was that it should be simple to understand & simple to use. And surprisingly, this was the biggest challenge. Not creating the features or even the wish list, but making all of this simple.
And ScreenPen was born. A super cool, simple to understand, simple to use product. And here's where it gets really funny. We didn’t even know we had a product. We created a presentation for the client, just the way we wanted and requested that they allow us to make it before passing their final judgment. And we did. And boy! Did we use ScreenPen!! The first time we used it was when there was a heated debate in the room. We just made a big question mark on the screen in bright yellow. The most beautiful question mark I've ever seen. And there was silence.
And then the head honcho spoke. "What’s that ?" "Just a tool to help you enhance your technologically superior positioning.” we whimpered. "And how much does it cost?". We almost fell off our chairs. We had not been prepared for this. And we blurted "Nothing". Everything got approved. And they lived happily ever after, actually just for 1 more year. And we realized that we had a brand new baby "ScreenPen".
Our baby has since grown and has traveled to over 10 countries and over 500 schools and over 3000 PC's and over ..., but then that’s another story.