Bruce McCarthy is Founder and Chief Product Person at UpUp Labs, where he and his team are at work on Reqqs - the smart roadmap tool for product people.

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Dropbox Tops Windows 8 in 2012 User>Driven Hall of Fame and Shame

You learn a lot about what inspires people's passions - positive and negative - with this kind of contest. As in past years, there were a lot of nominations (for both Fame and Shame) for things people use every day. There were loved and hated mobile devices and apps, entertainment services and devices, and productivity apps. When these more intimate products serve us well - or frustrate us - they inspire us (one way or another) to speak up.

There were 9 separate mobile devices or apps mentioned: everything from the Samsung Galaxy SIII, iPad and Nexus 4 to the Pebble ePaper Watch and Raspberry Pi micro computer. The only negatives in this category were for Apple (see below).

Entertainment services like Netflix, DirecTV, Comcast and Verizon FiOS all made the Shame list. This, I think, reflects our high-level of dissatisfaction with the entertainment distribution options available to us.

Of course, there were also nominations for business-oriented solutions like Join.Me, Nimble CRM, iBooks Author, Trello (in the positive) and Freemind and Ryma (in the negative). These generally received only one or two mentions each, though. Business is business, I guess.

Falls from Grace

The most interesting thing to me this year is how many former Fame winners were nominated for Shame this year. As a company, Apple won the Hall of Fame in 2007 with multiple nominations in many categories. This year, however, Aaron wrote:

"They've set my expectations so high over the years with wonderful and innovative products. But they've been mailing it in recently. iOS 6 and the latest round of products were.....boring. And in the case of Apple Maps, downright bad. I hope they turn it around and get back to showing me things that I never knew I needed."

And from Alexis, this:

"It doesn't seem like things can get any worse than a company CEO openly telling his evangelist consumer-base to use a competitor product until your own is fixed."

Apple wasn't the only one, though. Netflix won Fame in 2006 for their groundbreaking DVDs-by-mail service. They've clearly squandered that goodwill, though, by forcing customers to choose between DVDs and streaming and by making less and less content available via the latter.

Evernote hasn't appeared in this contest before but I was surprised to see this from Greg on the popular service (which I use daily):

"This used to be one of my favorite products, but they have clearly lost the way, although I still use it. Between removing the "new note" button, which is pretty much the only button people use all the time, and "upgrading" the app to be slow like outlook, it's gone way down hill."

Perhaps it is their former greatness that inspires people to speak up when things go wrong with their favorite products. Shame on Apple and these others for "losing the way."

Hall of Shame Winner

Apple wasn't the most frequent mention in the Shame category, however. Reading through the comments here, in a variety of LinkedIn groups I polled, and in direct communications with readers, the most shameful product of 2012 is clearly the new Windows 8 Metro interface.

"It's probably the worst user interface I've used. Extremely hard to find anything. Definitely seems like Microsoft is going backward."

"It is really bad and pretty much makes you start over using windows"

"Ugh! Is it metro or isn't it, can't it just decide?"

Hall of Fame Winner

2012 was clearly the year of Dropbox. It's been around for a while (and sharing files over networks has been around for even longer), but suddenly it seems like it's the app you can't do without.

"Now a paying user and even an evangelist, can't say enough good things about how easy and impressive this product/service super combo is."

"All my files in one place, accessible from anywhere. In particular I like it for a backup of files I develop or modify when traveling."

"It's great when I am in front of my daughter's computer and I need a file, and recently I've started sharing files with colleagues using it as well."

I listened to an interview with Drew Houston, one of the founders of Dropbox. He said that potential investors really didn't get their concept early on. People felt that online storage was just too boring, it seemed. The company launched anyway and, in Houston's words "Dropbox's simplicity has been a result of relentlessly sanding down the rough edges along the way."

This is the lesson for all of us in product development: taking something complicated (and maybe even boring) and making it great is a matter of getting lots and lots of little details right. And getting even a few of those key details wrong could make you the next Netflix.

Reader Comments (4)

Congratulations to Dustin Haines and Barry Coleman for being the first to mention the eventual winners in the Fame (Dustin) and Shame (Barry) categories. You'll be receiving User>Driven t-shirts to wear with pride!

January 26, 2013 | Registered CommenterBruce McCarthy

Oh, and check out the new T-short design here: http://www.zazzle.com/new_user_driven_t-235504275043552469

January 26, 2013 | Registered CommenterBruce McCarthy

Dropbox is a must-have product, but only because people haven't quite made the real (and inevitable) paradigm shift to true cloud productivity. Something akin to Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Draw is the future. Dropbox relies on the old and clunky paradigm of synchronized storage. What we need is transparency and seamlessness where there is no perception of synchronization or where the documents are stored. Where is a Google Doc stored and is it synced with my collaborator? Don't know and don't care! We're collaborating on the same doc at the same time, from any of our devices. That's all we know, and that's all we need to know.

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRoger L. Cauvin

That's the future, Roger, no question.

Despite all of the work Dropbox has done to simplify the solution, studies have shown that most people simply don't know how to use a file system. The future is no file system at all - though I suspect they have a business model for a while yet.

September 4, 2013 | Registered CommenterBruce McCarthy

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