People do not want something really new - they want the usual, but done differently

Original author: Nir Eyal
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From a translator: this is a rather old article of 2015, however, for my modest taste, it is still relevant, like many other materials from Nir Eyal.
If your new product or service is not gaining popularity, ask yourself: how to find my California roll?
I must admit that bento lunch is hardly a source of serious business lessons. However, let's take a look at the California roll - understanding the impact of this iconic Japanese dish can help lead your product to success and avoid failure.

If you have ever been disappointed that users are not interested in what you offer, you will understand the feelings of Japanese restaurant owners in America in the 1970s. Sushi in those days did not eat anyone. Apparently, the Americans were simply afraid of them. Eating raw fish seemed utterly insane, while tofu and seaweed seemed a misunderstanding, not a delicacy.

And the California roll appeared. Although the origin of this famous dish is still being debated, this moment was a turning point. The California roll was invented in the States by making an unusual new dish from the usual ingredients. Rice, avocado, cucumber, sesame seeds and crab meat - the only stranger to the average American was a barely noticeable nori leaf connecting everything together.

Habitual, made differently

The California roll became a conductor to the world of Japanese cuisine, and demand jumped with incredible force. Over the next decades, sushi restaurants that previously existed only in large coastal cities and served mainly the Japanese, suddenly became commonplace. Today, sushi is sold in small towns, airports, mini-malls and in finished goods departments in supermarkets. Americans spend 2.25 billion dollars each year on land .

The case with the California roll clearly showed: people don’t want something really new, they want the familiar, but done differently. Curiously, this experience applies both to food and to the introduction of new technologies.

For example, the graphical user interface - an important milestone in the popularization of personal computers - was built on familiar visual images of folders, notebooks, windows and trash cans to attract a wide audience who was afraid of the command line (perhaps much more than eating raw fish). The computer itself remained the same, but the look of familiar things immediately made it more accessible and understandable.

Overly detailed images of familiar things have become the hallmark of Apple products. Claire Evans in her article for Motherboardwrote: “In the later years of Steve Jobs’s leadership, Apple product design gravitated toward skeuomorphism. A desk calendar with carefully drawn details of Corinthian leather; a bookcase polished to shine, polished chrome, slightly frayed bindings, a freshly painted countertop. ”

Now Apple is making products for a generation of people who are familiar with their technology, and therefore can offer them sashimi instead of the California roll, if you will. Joni Ive explained in an interview with USA today : “You can safely say that people are used to touch devices. Their advantages are obvious today, so physical buttons are no longer needed. ”

However, Apple still uses its time-tested methods when it wants to create new user habits. For instance,the updated Apple Wallet helps users feel comfortable because payments are made using the small credit cards displayed on the screen. And although this is not technically necessary, Apple understands the power of familiar images.

Habit breeds contempt

As I wrote in my book On the Hook , unusual products and interfaces are harder to use, and this may prevent them from being accepted by the user. Due to various psychological characteristics, we resist unfamiliar things.

According to B.J. Fogg from Stanford University’s Behavioral Technology Laboratory, “non-routine” is one of the six “Elements of Simplicity” - factors that influence the likelihood that a particular person will perform an action. Fogg writes: “When a person is faced with a non-standard situation, he may find it difficult. In search of simplicity, people often turn to familiar things, for example, refueling at the same gas station, even if gas prices there are higher than others. ”

Of course, we all love the “new and improved,” but to a relatively modest degree. "New and Improved" works great for things that we are familiar with (such as breakfast cereals or dishwashing detergents), but not for products that we do not yet know how to evaluate.

Unfortunately, our rejection of things that go beyond the norm greatly hinders companies offering radically new technologies - regardless of their potential benefits. The lack of familiar sensations when using a new product is a serious obstacle. According to Fogg, “People often resist learning and training because it takes effort. This conflicts with the nature of adults: we are lazy. As a result, products that require learning something new fail for the most part. ”

How to find your California roll?

In a conversation about Apple Watch, Joni Ive noted that his goal was to create something “surprisingly familiar.” Smart watches are just that type of innovation that is still too unusual for everyone except the earliest followers. And Ive still meticulously treats details like the Digital Crown wheel, borrowed from traditional watches. Apparently, he knows what he’s doing: analysts predict that the company will sell 19 million watches this year (Now we can say that the prediction did not come true , but in the 4th quarter of 2017 the company sold 8 million Apple Watch . In any case, the results impressive. - Note.per.)

With the growth of the pace of innovation, it is not technological limitations, namely human behavior that will become a decisive factor in whether a product is accepted or rejected. If new products and services have a positive effect on our lives, they must find a loophole in our daily affairs. Habitual, made differently - this is the path to the heart and mind of the user. And sometimes - to the stomach.

To summarize

  • California Roll introduced Americans to sushi using familiar ingredients put together in a new format.
  • The rule of the California roll: people don’t want something really new - they want the familiar, but done differently.
  • Truly new products need familiar brain images to make it easier for users to get used to them (example: Apple's skeuomorphic design).
  • Unusual user interfaces may not be accepted.
  • If your new product or service is not well received by users, ask yourself: how do I find my California roll?

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