You know, there’s this quirky little 3D program called Cinema 4D, which I used for quite a while way back then and even did tutorials on it, before Maxon told me to go fuck myself. So in turn, it is not without some sort of malicious glee that I monitor their slightly odd and bewildering development and marketing efforts. The recent "super secret" survey is one of these things where they completely hit the wall.
Let’s recap the facts first: On Thursday I got this mail from Maxon USA, stating that in order to help improve future versions of Cinema 4D I should kindly take a survey, but not share it with the rest of the world. Okay, being a good boy, I do, even if they screwed me over in the past. And now imagine – only a few hours later all hell breaks loose. People are discussing the survey openly on forums, because especially foreign users question the legitimacy of it, not having had any advanced warning. To put those users’ minds at ease, the company sends out a mail confirming that all of this is official, but only to mess up a second time in the process – the mail is sent to users, also, who didn’t get the original invites for the survey. So much for "secrecy" and keeping quiet tabs.
Could it get any worse? It could! And with that we get to the important part. Of particular note is actually what the survey asked users and how poorly put together and illogical it is. I will not repeat everything, but when you are asked on page 1, which version of the program you currently own and stating none still allows you to continue, it only illustrates the poor methodology employed. Furthermore, on the following pages the questions are full of Cinema 4D specific lingo. Okay, I know what they ‘re talking about, but imagine a Maya or MAX user who has so far never even visited the Maxon pages – either he’s laughin’ off his ass right away or spends a good chunk of his time trying to figure things out. That’s not how you even remotely win over users from other programs!
The ultimate flaw, and that is what I consider truly poor market and development research, is that the survey gets itself all wired up on way too specific features. It is that feature-centric thinking, which has given us such monsters as Photoshop or web browsers that need quad cores to run smoothly. We live in a day and age, where it’s no longer the question whether program X has a feature over program Y. On the contrary, the competitive edge is defined by how easily usable a feature is, a.k.a. how user-friendly the overall workflow is. You cannot find out that by asking whether someone uses a feature or not, but you may by asking what people do with this feature. And to do that in a clever way, of course you should employ some psychology tricks.
So ultimately, what Maxon have now, is a bunch of useless results. They are no closer in knowing what their users truly want, but have dropped their pants in front of the competition, partly thanks to their over-concerned own user base. But worry not – I’m sure, someone there can’t resist the temptation of putting together a few charts and diagrams all reflecting favorably on the product. Perfect fodder for the Junk Charts graveyard, no doubt.