Got NUDs?

Why creating delightful things — and hiding them — is a good idea


Has something like this ever happened to you?

Last night I opened an e-mail dinner invitation from a friend on my iPhone. Before I closed it,  I noticed the event date was highlighted in blue:




I understood this meant the date text was ‘hot,’ that it would do something if I touched it. So I did. Guess what happened next?




My iPhone added the date to my calendar. Not only that, it copied the title and time. I was surprised and delighted. How clever and helpful. How intuitive to know that my next effort would have been to copy the text myself into iCal. Now I didn’t have to. Thank you Apple!

I was tickled, not because of the few seconds of effort this little trick saved me, but how some Apple programmers anticpated my next move — how they understood me. With Apple it’s all about experience. In this case it was an unexpected feature. Of course, I wanted to tell everyone: my wife (full eye rolls there — she isn’t the Apple fan I am), friends, and now you. Smart thing, Apple, bolting on unasked-for features that must have cost you next to nothing to develop. And now, Apple, I’m broadcasting in my blog how brilliant you are.

Product developers call these things ‘NUDs’ (New, Unique, Delighters). These are the Easter eggs, the unexpected product features that go beyond spec, meet an unstated need and bring happiness to the person using it. We stumble on these every now and then: the kitchen utensil that folds up small; the pocket-in-a-pocket you find in a new suit jacket; the lever on a theater seat that gives you back support.

Such features needn’t be there; the engineer could have saved time and money, and kept them out. They might have advertised it. But they didn’t — they wanted you to find them.

Now my loyalty to Apple is further cemented. I wonder what other other treasures are still hidden? I won’t go looking for them. No, I’ll await the surprises to come. And I’ll probably buy another iPhone when it comes time to upgrade.

Too often companies merely deliver to specification. They compete on predictability (‘quality’, ‘lines on time,’ etc.). A nice idea, but eventually the competition catches up. A fatal, boring race towards sameness. Deliver expected quality, but you’ll find your edge is never enough, at least not for long.

As an IT manager, I encourage my team to observe the problems people have doing things. I ask them to brainstorm unusual ideas to solve the problem. “Are there one or two NUDs there we could deliver beyond the ‘stated needs’ (‘requirements’) that will startle and delight?”  This isn’t goldplating; it’s encouraging enthusiastic use. Would it really be odd to sprinkle NUDs into a corporate system? Adding NUDs to reduce frustration and errors … and adding happiness?

Seth Godin wrote a blog this week, ‘Organizing for Joy.’  He says pretty much the same thing about companies who suprise people with happiness:

The alternative, it seems, is to organize for joy. These are the companies that give their people the freedom (and yes, the expectation) that they will create, connect and surprise. These are the organizations that embrace someone who makes a difference, as opposed to searching for a clause in the employee handbook that was violated.

Consider your relationships with friends and family, with coworkers and customers. Are there little NUDs you can give them? In your service? Your software? Can you be remarkable?

Or do you have a handbook?





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