What happens when you design a product for everyone…

When you build a product, these are exactly the comments you hope to read: “Mind blowing!”, “wow”, “great”, “soooooo addicting”. When you are building any product, take a little effort up front to think of the different kinds of users – it is likely to pay off in surprising ways.

Those comments where made about the last product I worked on at Yahoo: Yahoo! Live. I think it’s an addictive product and from what I hear users think so too – it could turn out to be the most successful Advanced Products team product.

What’s interesting is where those comments came from. Dan W pointed out this great post: Yahoo’s LIVE Deaf Chat Room! about how a group of deaf users were delighted by their experience on Y! Live. Those comments above were from this post and the commenters.

This wasn’t an accident. Eric Fixler on my team (and our intern Vibha Bamba) took the extra effort to research users with different kinds of abilities and what they would need in a product like Live. They brought blind, deaf, and physically challenged users into Yahoo and let them play with Y! Live. They listened to feedback, they researched how to make flash screen-reader ready. But most important: they just took the time to think it through: what would it be like for a deaf user to use Y! Live. Turns out that was a good move. I have a friend who is a sign language interpreter and he tells me that webcams are revolutionizing the way deaf people communicate. TTD is still around, but now people will just say get on skype to video conference. Much easier and faster.

I’m proud of the work that the team did (especially Eric and Vibha) and I’m so happy to see these kinds of posts.

So have you thought about how your product will work with all kinds of users?

UPDATE: I just noticed that Mike Quoc (the PM on Live) has a blog now. He linked to another similarly great post.

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