Entrepreneur Reading List (Part 2): 5 Tools for Making Products People Love

I made up a few lists of resources for the soon-to-be entrepreneurs attending my talk at Fairfield University Business School on April 16th, so I figured I’d share it. This post is the second part of the list; you can find the first part of the list on how to transition from a standard 9-5 job here.

This list of 5 resources is about how to make a product that people feel an emotional connection to.

Not just like, but love.

Rave about.

Go boy band crazy for.

1. Do You Matter? How Great Design Will Make People Love Your Company
by Robert Brunner, Stewart Emery and Robert Hall

This is the best book that I’ve read to date.  I became the web designer of our company just a few short months ago, and I have been obsessed with learning about design ever since.  But this book threw me for a loop. As I turned to the final page, I hadn’t learned a single thing about design in the classical sense, but I was certainly not disappointed.

Design is more than how your product looks; it’s a philosophy ingrained into your company from the very top to the very bottom of the corporate ladder and from the very beginning to the very end of the product’s creation. This book will change your perspective on creating the customer experience so that your product can live among the ranks of legends like the iPod, BMW and the “W” hotels. “Do You Matter?” does highlight many achievements in technology and innovation, but it is written to be applicable to any business, of any size, anywhere.

I strongly recommend that anyone who actually cares what customers think about their company read this book.

2. Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable
by Seth Godin

This was the first book that changed my world view of marketing. There are trillions of products in the marketplace today, why would anyone even stop to consider yours?

Godin tells of a road trip through the countryside with his family. He says that cows are boring, but his children would have demanded that he pull the car over immediately had they seen a purple cow. How can you get people to be so interested in your product that they would do anything to be a part of the “in” crowd?

By being remarkable. In this day and age, viral marketing is the name of the game. No one pays attention to advertisements anymore. You need to get people to talk about your product both in person and via the Internet if you want to succeed.

The book explains the concept of a Purple Cow, gives examples and then finally puts you on track to making your own. If you want to create a remarkable product then you need to read it.

3. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition
by Steve Krug

“Don’t Make Me Think” was the first book that changed my perspective on product design. It likened good web design to great use of street signs. It’s really, really simple and you can figure it out within a few seconds without spending too much time thinking.

This book gave a lot of great real-world examples of what to do and what not to do when laying out a basic or even a complex website. It’s a standard read for anyone making anything on the Internet.

4. Paul Graham’s Essays (again)

This topic was on the previous list as a whole, but I’d like to point out some specific essays that help you create a great product. Six Principles for Making New Things, Copy What You Like, Taste for Makers, and Design and Research.

5. Founders at Work
by Jessica Livingston

This book was admittedly a difficult read, and I did not read every chapter. So why recommend it?

It is a series of interviews with startup founders such as the people who started the following companies: Apple, Gmail, Yahoo!, Adobe, Hot or Not, Craigslist, Blogger, PayPal, TiVo, Research in Motion, and about a dozen others.

I read about the companies that most interested me and that I admire; that is how I recommend going about this book. The amazing part is that you get to hear the firsthand stories about what the people who founded these organizations went through at the very beginning of their journeys, something you almost never get a glimpse at.

I’d recommend picking it up when you’re trying to come up with some ideas for your company or if you’re thinking things are going to be too difficult. There are some amusing tales of blunders and nearly-averted-disasters that could have sent some of the biggest names in business to the netherworld, but didn’t.


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