Great Values Make Great Products, Right?
(republished from our CEO’s LinkedIn page)
Many years ago, my father used to say to me that he could work with any person — as long as they had principles he respected. Not simply a desire to make money, but a desire to make the world just a little bit better. His favorite saying was from a poem I have on my personal website:
To Have Succeeded
To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others;
to leave the world a little better place than when we found it, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
– Bessie Anderson Stanley, often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson
Where he saw principles, a desire — I see values.
As a product “guy”, and now as CEO, I can say the same about amazing products — ones that adhere to a set of values or principles and that use those principles to drive choices that are made with them in mind.
At OWLR, we have spent time discussing culture and values — recently asking what values we act on, not the ones we would “say” we have — especially when we understand that a value or principle is one that we would maintain even at our own personal expense.
In the course of the past year, I believe we have acted upon these values — and would love to know if you (our users) feel that we are delivering on them.
It’s Yours, Not Ours
All of us have read the articles about hackable IP cameras and especially the baby monitors that are indexed on search engines. There have been so many personal data hacks that have been reported in the news because of cyber break-ins.
At OWLR, we started out with a concern that with the advent of the Internet-of-Things, which is supposed to be increasing our sense of control and security, is often exposing unexpected vulnerabilities and weakening the very things it was designed to create.
One of our original principles was to ensure that you were are in control of the “keys” to your home — not us. Yes, it might be easier if we had total access control over your cameras — but, hang on, we never asked. You do not know who we are — and how we, if some hacker hacked us, might give access to your home. All this without your permission.
That is why we focused on a simple design principle — your passwords for your cameras are YOURS and yours alone. We do not want them and do not believe we should have them. Yes, our apps have them on your phone, but we never send those passwords to our central server. This might sound strange with a world of cloud storage and cloud intelligence, but we believe that we can serve your needs without them. It’s Yours, Not Ours.
At some time, we might request permission to access them if you want us to solve other problems, but we will ask — not assume you do not need to give permission. It’s Yours, Not Ours.
It’s About the Little Things
Back in the Nineties, “Point of No Return” created an interesting catch phrase — “I never did mind the little things”.
Here at OWLR, we do.
One of the first people I asked to join us was my former visual designer. He and I would spend a great deal of time figuring out the most effective use of your time with our app.
Arguing and discussing and researching, we worked out what we believed would be strong design principles and have worked hard on building out our apps along those principles.
Our design is not to be cool — that is a bit overrated. Our design is (hopefully) focused on optimizing what you may be using our apps for.
- For the parents who are using it for baby monitoring.
- For the singles who are concerned about who is ringing/knocking on the front door.
- For people who want to have an eye on their personal property.
- For the people who want to make sure Grams is okay or if the kids are the ones banging about in the house.
But UX/UI and design are not the only things we worry about. There are a host of little things you would never think about. Like…consistency in design, ergonomic buttons large enough to hit easily, insane attention to making sure the app is considerate to bandwidth and battery usage, making sure that the colors that match and do not take away from the purpose at hand — giving you the view you want and need.
As a team, we work hard at the little things that you will might never notice (e.g., network communications, video processing speed, etc.), and we will continue to work to improve them. Because It’s About the Little Things.
Have Fun / Have a Laugh
One of my first strong disagreements I had at OWLR was about what an error popup should say.
On one side, there was the unobtrusive method of being absolutely pragmatic and practical — like, when your password did not work, the popup would say “Incorrect Password — please try again.”
On the other side, one thing that always struck me as silly was how humor (or ‘humour’ as my team members would like me to spell it out) was not found in most interactions.
I go back to the 80s and remember the Beagle Bros Software that used iconography of the 1920s to provide a bit of pizzazz to incredibly “exciting” products like disk drive cleaners.
So, to have a bit of fun, and to remind people that mistakes are always possible and not terrible to behold, we added a bit of a “funny voice” to our popups and interactions.
And, to answer our most frequent question, “Is Johnson McJohnson real?” — well, come by the office just before submission to the App Store or the Play Store and see what happens to the team then. Have Fun / Have a Laugh.
Be the User / Two Ears, One Mouth
One of the challenges about making great software, if you have not done it, is — as a developer — to understand how you, the user, uses our software. Oh, yes — you can send us emails about the problems and the joys you have with the product, but sometimes, the person coding the software might not be connected to the problems that you the users have.
Today, we try to be more like you — the user. We spend more time with cameras in our homes and work to emulate the uses you have for them. Heck, we have almost 70 cameras in our office window as I type this post out (okay, so maybe we are not like all of you…).
We spend so much time thinking about what makes the product work for you — and for us. We had a terrific response to our Flying Beta Program which gave us so much great information to help us better understand your needs. And we continue to take in your needs and concerns.
We are a small team, but the priority of listening over talking — to better understand and become you, the user — matters so much that we intentionally put the Feedback button in the main menu.
That Feedback function on our apps is because we know that YOU know better — you have insights we have not even thought about. You might need to complain. To extol. Or to simply connect.
We are here to listen, to assist and (sincerely) trying to get you a response as quickly as we can.
Your Feedback is our lifeblood for how we will succeed, and now — with almost 200K installs — your Feedback is appreciated more than ever.
Tell us your thoughts either in the comments or send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org — we would love to hear from you.