Thanks to Phil Birchenall for sending me this article about the Flip Video camcorder. It’s about a simple and inexpensive camcorder that’s “good enough” rather than being “the best”. It has just the right range of features to be usable and useful, at a reasonable price. It’s opened up a new market of ‘ordinary’ users, not just video enthusiasts.
It got me thinking more about Quality.
Creative people in business are rightly concerned about Quality. However, quality is subjective, not objective. And in business terms, the customer’s perspective is vital. Sometimes creators add “too much” quality, not because the customer demands it but simply because the producer wants to – or thinks they ought to.
I recently bought a digital camera. Not the ‘best’ or the most complex, but one that is small and light enough to take with me without having to decide every day if I really want to carry the extra weight. As a Nikon, it’s well built and I expect it to be reliable. Also it was easy to obtain and sold at a reasonable price. It does the job for me, it’s ‘fit for purpose’, therefore it’s ‘quality’.
Quality has many dimensions because the consumer takes into account price, convenience, speed of delivery, maintenance costs and usability in deciding their own definition of quality. So we need to think about offering Quality in different dimensions.
- Artists sell limited-edition prints. Not as good as the original but good enough for many people.
- A product can be designed to be biodegradable – so it deliberately doesn’t last too long.
- Publishers can offer an eBook version instantly instead of the paperback delivered by Amazon next week
- Websites can be designed without too much technical complexity so they are accessible to blind people using speech synthesis software
- Film-makers can also create short videos instead of a full documentary, quickly, in an internet-ready format, on a fixed budget, without compromising quality.
Not everyone wants the biggest, longest, most expensive or most complex version of what you can offer.
Is a Rolls Royce better than a bicycle? It depends on what the customer actually wants. Is a bicycle a poor-quality Rolls Royce? No, it’s a different product and can be even ‘higher quality’ in many ways.
By understanding customers’ perspectives on quality, the most successful creative businesses use their creative talents to produce goods and services which fit customers’ definitions of quality as well as staying true to their own sense of artistic integrity.
Update: See article in Wired magazine August 2009 ‘The Good Enough Revolution: When Cheap and Simple Is Just Fine’
Read also what Edgar Degas and Umberto Eco say about the customer’s view of Quality.