Little features and a lesson for Product Management

Today, while working on a different blog posting (to be posted soon), my browser, Firefox, froze. I use FireFox almost exclusively these days, mostly because it works well, and I really like the tabbed browser-window interface. I do a lot of multi-tasking via the web browser, and the tabbed interface makes it very easy to jump back and forth between contexts as I multi-task. Try that with the other dominant browser.

Yes, I know there is some toolbar or something for IE 6 that will do this and that IE 7 has it built-in, but FireFox has had tabs for a lonnnnng time, so I prefer it. And while the tabbing feature is great, that’s not the only little feature I want to discuss.

Firefox has another new feature, not sure when they added it, that will restore the full prior state of Firefox on the next launch, if it had shutdown unexpectedly.

(click to see the whole dialog)

How awesome is that? Well, let me tell you…earlier this evening I was working on a blog posting, typing right inside the WordPress editor, when, as I often do, I switched to another tab to look for some info. I clicked a link on that other page, and then the browser froze. And I mean froze. After waiting a minute and still not having a responsive browser, I had to kill the process in the Task Manager.

Somewhat annoyed at not having saved my brilliant blog posting, I reminded myself that I needed to regularly save my work.

But, when I relaunched Firefox and clicked the Restore Session button, to my amazement, there was the entire post in the WordPress editor, exactly as I had left it. It was not saved in WordPress, but Firefox had brought it back. Awesome. Saved me a bunch of time and yet another reason to continue using Firefox.

So, what’s the lesson for Product Managers?

Keep the user’s experience front and center!

I’m sure the tabbed interface and the Restore Session features were fairly easy to implement relative to other tasks such as accurate rendering of markup, script execution, addressing security issues, dealing with plug-ins etc. And while those are important things to work on, they are expected “buying features” for users. But the unexpected, particularly the ruthless efficiency of something like Restore Session, is what will clinch the deal with many users.

Yet, these kinds of features are often traded off when negotiating with development.

Do you want the security problems fixed or do you want the restore? We can’t do both.

Granted, an open source product like Firefox doesn’t necessarily have to make those trade offs, but for business software, that is not the case. Get your engineers to understand the value of having the product outperform expectations, and task them to help identify little gems of functionality that can be implemented to make users rave about your products.

Saeed — Raving Firefox fan, starting today.


2 responses to “Little features and a lesson for Product Management

  1. Hi Saeed,
    just wanted to bring to your notice as well as those who read your blog. I have been using Opera browser for the last 8 years and as far as i could remember that this feature is there in Opera browser for the last 4 years.
    Not only the above, you can save all the web pages that you are curretnly looking at and then at a later point of time you can just open any of the saved sessions.

    And i can literally say that there are tons of other features that is included in the tiny little 4 MB browser.

    I can also confidently say (atleast as a long time user) that their product manager are the best in rolling out releases after releases at a quicker phase and at the same time concentrating on what is the most important thig that a user always caresa about.

    It is just that Firefox discovered it today. Both Fire Fox and IE has a lot to catch up with Opera 🙂

    i am not trying to be a spokes person or to advocate for Opera for you and your readers, i leave it individual to have their own preference for browsers based on their experience and decide what suits them.


  2. Srini,

    Thanks for the comment. I knew that Opera had tabbed browsing, and I believe was the first browser to have that capability. I did use Opera a long time ago. I forget why I stopped using it.

    Thanks for the comment though. Now there’s another interesting question to ask. If Opera had all of these capabilities and was a good alternative to Internet Explorer many years ago, why did it not take off like FireFox did?

    i’m not discrediting the PMs at Opera, but part of being a PM’s job is to figure out a strategy to make the product successful. FireFox has a huge market share when compared to Opera.

    Firefox clearly did some things (features, functionality, marketing, business etc.) that made it very successful very quickly.

    Anyone know what those things were?