Dec 8, 2021

Book Review: Badass: Making users awesome by Kathy Sierra

I came across this book sometime in 2015. I quickly brushed through the soft copy from Safari and jotted down a few points that were relevant to my work then.

As I kickstarted a new work engagement couple of weeks back, I knew I needed to revisit this book in much more depth and so ordered a hard copy.

It might seem like a not-so-serious book, given the style of writing and the imagery. But amidst the fun narrative lies a lot more insightful and relevant pointers for product managers and UX designers.

Kathy Sierra's Badass Making users awesome makes a compelling case of why it is important to enable users to become awesome in the compelling context for which they use our product/service. Most of the time, we market loudly on why our product is awesome with all the amazing, cool features. But the real success and meaning come when we help our users become awesome in a particular skill. Our product becomes an enabler towards this outcome.

Instead of competing on the quality of our product, it makes more sense to compete on the quality of the user's results with our product.

"Our users don't bask in the glow of our awesome product.

Our product basks in the glow of our users' results with it"

As users become awesome by experiencing results, they become what Kathy refers to as "badass" users. Badass users become more skillful, more knowledgeable, develop the ability to experience the context at a high resolution, and develop an enhanced perception towards appreciating quality.

"Don't just upgrade your product, upgrade your users"

"Don't build a better camera, build better photographers"

She then takes us in-depth on the user journey and the aspects to focus on, that will help our users become badass in the corresponding context.

Some of the ideas that are discussed are

  • Deliberate practice - break down a skill into finer-grained sub-skills
  • Perceptual exposure, leading to perceptual knowledge
  • Fixing the gaps that prevent users from moving forward
  • Setting up a performance path map
  • Reducing cognitive drain

If you are a startup founder, product manager, or designer working on skill-building or solving problems related to adoption/activation/engagement, then this book is a super useful read.

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