Make It Simple, But Significant: A Lesson From Dropbox

"From the industrial revolution right up to today’s cutting-edge digital apps, making our everyday lives more convenient has been at the heart of most successful new inventions."

As a society, we have embraced new technology, inventions, products, and services that make our lives just a bit easier. Even though life isn’t supposed to be about short cuts, we love to take the easiest route.

What first starts out as niche ways of consuming product and/or content, such as the advent of digital payments, soon rapidly becomes the norm. We like our lives to be simple, efficient, and less time & resource consuming. The founder of Dropbox, Drew Houston realized that convenience rules all, and it’s a lesson that consumers and marketers alike can learn from. 

Dropbox was founded out of the frustration and need  of the owner – he wanted to “design a service to sync and share files between personal computers over the Internet”. As a student and born-techy, Drew was sick of carrying around USB drives (do those exist anymore?) and/or e-mailing himself files. He realized that he wasn’t alone, as this was usually the norm for people who wanted to aggregate their data across devices.

“It’s hard to imagine Tom Cruise in Minority Report sending himself files via Gmail or lugging around a USB thumbdrive” Drew Houston.

Dropbox provides the same capabilities for personal and professional use. Unlike his competition at the time, Dropbox differentiated itself on its ease of use, convenience, and it just worked. Like the Great Don Draper once said “Make it Simple but Significant”, here are some key takeaways that we can learn from Dropbox:

All We Want Is Convenience

Dropbox success can be attributed to the fact that it solved a problem that affected A LOT of people. It was an opportunity that they capitalized on by not only providing a solution but also making life easier.

With the invention of Dropbox, no longer did consumers or professionals have to worry about how they would access their files or data across devices. In our mobile and digital world, we are always on the move and the same goes with our files. Dropbox provided a one stop shop for all files – simple, but yet significant. 

Make It Easy To Use

“Users are not always logical, at least not on the surface. To be a great designer you need to look a little deeper into how people think and act” Paul Boag. 

From the beginning, Dropbox was designed to not only work but to work well. It was engineered so that the user experience can be understood and efficient for the soccer mom who wants to share photos of her son across devices to the corporate executive that is working a deck across multi-function teams.

As I’ll go over in a bit more detail in the next section, Dropbox was keen on having their ‘ears to the street’. They constantly listened to their customers so that the design, interface and user experience was the best that it could be. 

The Consumer Usually Knows Best

Dropbox knew that in order to break through in a cluttered market, it had to 1) be authentic and 2) listen to their best customers. Those two go hand in hand, especially in the tech theatre. Even though techies can come off as somewhat cultish (or possibly just my opinion), Dropbox embraced the community.

As the Y-Combinator motto states “Make something people want”, Dropbox took it to heart. In order to update product features, Dropbox created and interacted with customers on support forums and even implemented a place on their website where customers can submit recommendations. They listened and it paid off.

By paying close attention to the wants and needs of their customers and from the customers themselves, Dropbox was able to establish its reputation as an industry innovator & leader.