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It’s the experience, stupid

Rarely do I read something that literally prompts me to blurt “YES!” out loud (promptly causing my nearby colleagues to momentarily question my sanity), but after reading Dave McClure’s latest rant, I just couldn’t hold back that excited utterance.  While the main thrust of Dave’s post is directed at startups and the VCs that fund them, there is a universal truth in his words that apply to any consumer internet biz.  To paraphrase Dave – creating brilliant user experiences and efficiently acquiring users to enjoy them is the straw that that stirs the drink, not the elegant code that lives behind the page.  And, by extension, the people who design those experiences, determine how to guide them down the monetization funnel and drive consumer to your site are the critical assets to these businesses.  To quote Dave’s piece:


“Because while it’s actually pretty easy to write a web 2.0 friendly front-end app or website these days, it’s still MOTHERF**KING difficult to create visually-appealing interfaces, and beyond that to design them in ways that are compelling, engaging, drive calls-to-action, and are MEASURABLY beneficial to getting more customers using your products. figuring out game mechanics and activation, designing reinforcement schedules, visual imagery, copy writing, and landing page tests — all of this is not trivial, and only recently are there starting to be good resources for learning how to do it well.”


Dave goes on to say:


“And to be honest, design and marketing aren’t just EQUALLY important as engineering… designers, product managers & [technical, analytical] marketers are usually WAY MORE IMPORTANT than coders.”


Now, selfishly, since I fall in the category of people tasked with creating winning interfaces that optimize conversions and with driving consumers to them, I like the hearty pat on the back Dave offers here.  And I should point out that I have tremendous respect for the amazingly talented developers and engineers I’ve worked with.  That said, Dave simply couldn’t be more right.


While intricately woven code is key for data-rich web apps (definitely the case for us at, solving for those issues is a relatively small part of the puzzle.  Terrifically complex algorithms that tightly match user criteria with a meaty data set isn’t going to be, nor has it been to date, the winning formula for our business.  It’s just not a differentiator.  The creation and continued refinement of an intuitive and smartly designed interface is, or can be.


I also agree with Dave that traditional marketers have been put on notice – adapt or wither.  The same goes for much of the established ad agency world.  If you intend to build an audience for online businesses, understand that technical competency outweighs your rolodex of press contacts and that copywriting, while key, is about clear value propositions and calls to actions, not slogans and taglines.  As someone who has had to evolve their thinking in exactly the same way, I can say first hand that I had to unlearn some traditional marketing training to be relevant and effective in a consumer internet biz context.


Thanks again, Dave, for today’s “YES!” moment.



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