Joel Spolsky's Report Card (ETech 2006)


Joel Spolsky is speaking on creating blue-chip products. His formula:

  • Make people happy (control)
  • Think about emotions
  • Obsess over aesthetics

AJAX is an example of something that can make people happy by giving them instantaneous feedback. He points to the Ambercrombie Web site as an example. He gave the example of cars for emotion and the iPod for aesthetics.

How are people living up to the formula? He brings up reddit. It uses AJAX, has a cute alien as a mascot (large eyes and bald--looks like a human baby). The alien creates cartoon stories that create an emotional bond. There are points for posts and what people think about them, that make you go back and use it. The report card: happy: A, emotion: A, aesthetics: B, final grade: A.

He brings up a Motorola phone from last year and shows the Razr. Motorola has obviously thought about this. The Motorola Pebble is the same. Grade: happy: D (no control), emotion: A, aesthetics: A; final grade: B.

What about Internet Calendars? He decided that scheduling flights was the ultimate test. Yahoo Calendar gets a failing grade. He brings up AirSet. Aesthetics aren't good, but it's very functional. Grade: happy: A, emotion: B, aesthetics: C, final grade: B.

On aesthetics: All Web design is ugly. Enough with the pastel arial fonts! You're all copying Google. That's not what made Google Google. Google's minimalist design works as a revolt against the old-style portals. It's not good in and of itself. Google was making a statement. When you copy their fonts, you're not making a statement. So, Web site design in general gets a F.