The Jill Hotchkiss Inflection Point

Technology has reached a critical point in the adoption curve. My wife, who is imminently practical and intolerant of anything that smacks of gadgetry, is becoming intrigued by my iPhone. I can't overstate the importance of this in terms of watershed moments. Steve Jobs, if you can get my wife to buy into your vision, you have crossed the chasm.

There's something important to note here in attitudes towards technology that we digerati, gathered together on the leading edge of the bell curve, often forget. Technology only becomes important to most people when it lets them do something they care about. For my wife, my gleeful demonstrations of the wonder that is Shazam gained nothing but a prolonged rolling of the eyes. Twitter clients and Facebook apps? Puh-leeze! Redlaser elicited a brief spark of interest, but this quickly passed when she saw the steps she had to take to do any virtual shopping. Even the wonders of the cosmos, conveniently mapped by pUniverse, did not pass the Jill acid test. As long as my app inventory didn't improve her life in any appreciable way, she remained resolutely unimpressed.

But lately, there have been cracks in the wall of technology defense she has carefully constructed since marrying me. A nifty little app called Mousewait was the first chink. Knowing the wait times in the ride lines on a recent trip to Disneyland was something she cared about. Suddenly, she was asking me to take out the iPhone and check to see how many minutes we'd have to wait at Splash Mountain. Yelp helped us find a reasonable family restaurant in San Diego. And Taxi Magic allowed us to quickly hail a cab in San Francisco.

But the moment I knew the defenses were ready to crumble was when she recently turned to me and said: "So, you can do all that stuff on an iPhone? What other things can you do?"

Aahhh... the door was open, but only a crack. If I've learned one thing in 21 years of marriage, I've learned to tread slowly when these opportunities present themselves. I had to carefully craft my response. Too much enthusiasm shown at this point could be fatal...

"Huh? What do you mean?"

"On the iPhone... what could you do with it?"

"What could I do with it, or what could you do with it?

"Me... let's say."

And here we come to the crux of the matter. I'm extremely tolerant of technology. I'll struggle my way through an interface and put up with crappy design simply so I can emerge victorious on the top of the early adopter heap, holding my iPhone proudly aloft. At the first inkling of frustration, my wife will turf the thing into the nearest trashcan. If you functionality is what you're looking for, app designers have to provide the shortest possible path from A to B.

If you really want to scale the opportunity that lies at the Jill Hotchkiss inflection point, what you have to do is start providing seamless functionality for app to app. The new iPhone OS is edging down this path by supporting multitasking, but there is still a long way to go before you'll make my wife truly happy. And that, believe me, is a goal worthy of pursuit.

10 comments about "The Jill Hotchkiss Inflection Point".
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  1. Judith Cheney from, July 29, 2010 at 10:01 a.m.

    I love it! There are many Jills in the world and I'm one of them. Keep the old "Kiss" theory in mind and designers will finally succeed. It sounds like you are a wise man to understand your wife so well. My husband is still struggling after 45 years of marriage : )

  2. John Jainschigg from World2Worlds, Inc., July 29, 2010 at 10:19 a.m.

    Terrific article. I have a similar crossing-the-chasm indicator in the family (as well as several early-adopters), and the benefit of having a one-person focus-group on consumer technology in the house is not to be underestimated.

    One thing I especially appreciate is the suggestion that the era of referencing "my Mom" as the bellwether of consumer acceptance may finally be coming to an end (now that one generation of post-Baby-Boomers has spent virtually their entire adult lives in the PC era, and most of their more-productive years in the internet era). This age-ist portrayal is (hopefully) now being replaced by the more-insightful idea that -- while virtually all adults now use some digital technology -- character and other factors (but nothing obvious, like age, income bracket, education level) still dictate usage patterns and preferences.

    My wife, indeed, is a good example of why technology marketers need to get past generational and other facile assumptions. She's IT director for a technology-forward international organization, so deals with all the cool stuff all day long. But at home, if the touchscreen Win7 box loses connectivity to the WiFi printer, she has zero patience - not because she can't troubleshoot the connection, but because (in her specific case) she's made a positive decision that tech glitches aren't going to eat her family time.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, July 29, 2010 at 10:48 a.m.

    Bingo !

  4. Gary Senser, July 29, 2010 at 11:11 a.m.

    Everyday I find people just like your wife who are showing interest in the iPhone, yet have shunned most other digital devices. UI/UX is the key to further market penetration.

    Just last night I talked to a friend who was trying to figure out how to successfully open a PDF he downloaded from an email on his Windows PC. After a 30 minute long distance conversation, I suggested he look into an iMac. It would make his life a lot easier and it would save us both a lot of time!

  5. David Carlick from Carlick, July 29, 2010 at 11:33 a.m.

    Almost 30 years ago, introducing the PC to a world that had never considered using a computer, it was the cascade of applications (what else) and user interface simplicity that drew people across the chasm. It is fun to see that little playlet run over and over and over and over. The more things change......

  6. Jeff Hardy, July 29, 2010 at 11:49 a.m.

    The Ellen Inflection point -

    The iPad and the ABC app that let her simply pick up the device and watch previous episodes of "The Bachelor" without loggin in, booting up, or attaching to the network.

    It was magic before her eyes.

    Be well,

  7. Gordon Hotchkiss from Out of My Gord Consulting, July 29, 2010 at 2:41 p.m.


    Great comment. All too often, tech designers interpret frustration as incompetence. Maybe those frustrated users just know they have better things to do with their time, like spend time with their kids. Love that perspective!

  8. Nancie Martin from Tell My Story, July 29, 2010 at 4:08 p.m.

    David Ogilvy essentially said the same thing a long time ago: "The consumer is not a moron. She is your wife."

  9. Donna DeClemente from DDC Marketing Group, July 29, 2010 at 10:32 p.m.

    Love this article. But it's not always the wife. Sometimes it's the husband! Mine doesn't want anything to do with Facebook or Twitter and I even have a hard time getting him to occasionally read my blog (which I've written for 4.5 years now.) But he now has a iphone Touch and he's starting to do more and more, although he was swearing at the iTunes program tonight. That really still needs to work some of the bugs out!

  10. Chris Davies from Enquiro, July 30, 2010 at 3:52 p.m.

    Gord, I'm sure that it's been the experience of being married to a woman much like Jill that's turned down the gain on my Bright Shiny Object Syndrome knob. There's a point at which one more app would having me sleeping on the couch.

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