How to Build Products Users Love part 1

Kevin Hale, Founder, Wufoo and Partner, Y Combinator talks about how to build products that users love from the perspective of his startup Wufoo.


  • gap between conversion and churn is growth
  • growth in terms of human scale and how we build our product
  • the best way to get to $1 billion is focus on the values to acquire that first $1
  • wufoo database app with “fisher-price” ui, meaning it was easy to use and attracted wide customer base
  • wufoo Y Combinator funded, located in Tampa Bay FL, 10 employees, no office, acquired by SurveyMonkey
  • used dating and marriage as model for dealing with customers
  • 4m26s # First Impressions
  • human beings are relationship manufacturing beings
  • pass/fail threshold for first-time interactions so much lower than after long-term relationship
  • software first impressions: homepage, landing pages, plans/ pricing, login, signup
  • other firsts: first email, account creation, blank/ starting interface, login link, ad link, first support
  • 6m56s taken for granted quality (atarimae hinshitsu); enchanting quality (miryokuteki hinshitsu)
  • samples: fun login screen, beautiful user guides, etc.
  • John Gottman: insight into personal relationships related to business
  • 15m50s Software engineers/ designers are often divorced from the consequences of their actions
  • before launch 100% create software
  • after launch crap gets added: customer support, fix crap, business crap, hiring crap, crap
  • 15m50s SDD (support driven development) inject software development with responsibility, accountability, humility
  • 17m10s SDD = make everyone do customer support
  • 17m30s # 1 support responsible developers and designers Give the Best Support
  • the four horsemen (reasons we break up with each other): criticism, contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling
  • Joe Gebbia of airbnb also doing phone support all the time
  • asking user’s emotional state made for nicer customers
  • 23m05s # 2 support responsible developers and designers Create Better Software
  • direct exposure to users to get better software (not reports or graphs), minimum every 6 weeks, at least 2 hours
  • knowledge gap: distance between target amount of knowledge required to use software and user’s current knowledge level
  • 25m48s when everyone responsible for support every week… growth
  • 27m08s Relationship Atrophy
  • blogs and newletters for user benefits but only small portion using them, instead…
  • since you’ve been gone: wufoo alerts to show new features timeline since last time user was logged on
  • wufoo made everyone say thank you with hand-written thank you cards
  • 31m41s Discipline of Market Leaders 1. best price, 2. best product, 3. best overall solution (customer intimate)
  • best overall solution – almost no money, little bit of humility and manners
  • 33m00s Q&A
  • what if you have customers with differing preferences: start 1 at a time with most passionate users
  • balance focus on product and getting customers: make really interesting product
  • how to make product decision and communicate with team: see what users ask for and figure out why then build quickly to test change
  • king for a day: once a year a random engineer would get entire company to work on their wish list for 48 hour “hackathon”
  • remote working: respect people’s time, 1/2 friday for meetings, 1 day customer support, during week max discussion 15 minutes between employees regarding problem (then bring up on Friday, but typically it would get solved on own)
  • remote working takes lots of discipline in a different fashion
  • 42m20s how to set up accountability for employees: profit sharing, to do lists – every updates text file with what they plan to do for week, then what they actually did, discuss at meeting if difference
  • how do you hire people that can work remotely: hire as contractor on month long project, monitor customer support ability, ask people in interview to write by hand a breakup letter
  • something that didn’t work: crunch mode contest

Additional Reading



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