The behavior of Twitter’s users provides all sorts of metrics that tell you whether the service’s design is good: you track how often people follow links, how frequently they post, and other interesting things. Those metrics have suggested important refinements to the service. For instance, “Who to Follow” was a response to the fact that many new users didn’t know what to do after they signed up. What are the metrics you follow at Square to refine the service’s design?
We can tell how long people are spending on the payment page, or how long it takes them to swipe a card, or how long it takes them to find the charge button. But the most important number we follow is the transaction time. Currently, with existing technology, for a merchant that accepts a credit card with a normal machine, the transaction time is probably one minute to even three minutes.
Our average transaction time is 45 seconds. We want to get it down to 30 seconds, and then we want to get even faster. Because, again: if we can get transactions really quick, then paying just fades into the background and the customer is focusing on coffee or a piano lesson or whatever is important.
Are there any models for managing a company to emphasize the importance of this kind of transparent design?
I’ve studied the magazine and newspaper culture a lot, because at the end of the day, I think my role is purely editorial. I don’t really run the company. I’m like you, an editor in chief.
That’s very flattering, but what do you mean? As an editor I make choices and I build processes.
That’s what I’m getting at. There are a thousand different things you could write about, and there are a thousand different features we could build. All of them might be good by themselves, but in our case, there are just one or two that would really form a cohesive narrative of what Square is. The product is the story we’re telling the world.
Who does that well?
I think Steve Jobs is probably one of the best editors ever. When he got back to Apple [in 1997], he didn’t just kill some products; for two years he killed a bunch of great products. And then, around the world, he put up posters of all his heroes with the tagline, “Think Different.” They had nothing on the market at that time—nothing. They just had posters of Jim Henson. That was it. And then, suddenly, there was this beautiful unfolding story with wonderful pacing: iMac, iPod, OS X, iPhone, and the iPad. It’s amazing to me how they went about that: Apple has such patience about building products. We’ve got a lot to learn.