Wisdom from Scott Belsky

Recently I had the pleasure of hanging out with Scott Belsky — who is unusually obsessive about the first mile of a product. (Thankfully). One of my favorite Scott-isms is:

I’d propose that, in the first 15 seconds of every new experience, people are lazy, vain, and selfish.

Scott Belsky

If you read what he’s really saying, then you’re less likely to get offended. I recall Scott telling me how this was a mantra at Behance while they were scaling — to the point of folks glue-ing this piece of wisdom to their keyboards.

1/ App-first, 2/ Content-first, 3/ Collaboration-first is a useful binning of onboarding styles that are all important today. 

—3 Takeways from the mind of Scott Belsky

More recently, Scott shared some more wisdom bombz and so I hastily scribbled them down. Now I will try and read my writing … and include my own interpretations.

Every product starts to get bloated over time as features become the metric of success — that’s because you want to satisfy your most expert users. And in the process, you forget about the novice users who are like, “Wh-wh-whaaaat?” (<– at least that’s me trying to use Photoshop again after a fifteen year fast on Adobe products because I realized there were cheaper, better tools out there like Affinity’s suite and also Sketch plus Figma).

He broke the problem down into three user groups:

  1. App first — these folks are like fighter pilots who want to jump into the F-16 cockpit, flick on the HUD, and then go off and do their thing. They’ve trained for their missions, they know their tooling super well, and they’ll do the heavy lift to improve improve improve. These are the so-called “Photoshop Gurus” of the 90s who never gave up playing volleyball on the beach a la Top Gun.
  2. Content first — these folks are looking for templates to solve their specific problems quickly. They want to play F-16 pilots on TV but without the training. The example he gave was the “Dunk In The Dark” tweet that came out within 30 seconds of a blackout — it was the kind of thing that couldn’t happen if a normal marketing-to-creative process was run. It had to happen instantly. So these are the Canvans (Canva users) who prefer “add water and mix” creativity.
  3. Collaboration first — these folks don’t have an idea of what they want to make but they know WHO they want to collaborate with. They’re more socially-minded and I might add more #teamwork-oriented and know that their own knowledge contains tons of limitations. They might even be aware of the biases they bring to the work they’re creating. These are the Figmans (Figma users), for instance.

My apologies for the military metaphor, but it’s because I’m a product of the last century. Feel free to use your own, better metaphor when retelling these thoughts. Enjoy! —JM