Kathy Sierra’s talk “Building the minimum Badass User”

Kathy Sierra: Building the minimum Badass User, Business of Software. A masterclass in thinking about software product development.


We want to compete on user awesome, not on app awesome ==> user getting results

You’re a tool. What does the user do with or because of you? What bigger things do you enable.

Don’t design so they are impressed with you. Design so others are impressed with them.

Exercise: Write your ideal thought bubble (your ideal amazon review). Points detracted when review talks about author or book. Points given when review talks about reader and what the book enabled them to do.

What would you want people to say about themselves?


“Inner game of tennis” recommended for anyone teaching anybody anything.

If you do only one thing: provide examples of what good looks like.

If you can do two things: add deliberate practice exercises, designed to build a (fine-grained) skill within one to three sessions. Help people go from totally unreliable at this thing to 85 to 90% reliable within 1-3 practices.

If you can do three things: add a clear, believable path of progression from novice to mastery. People need to know what’s the map to getting better at this, and where they are on the map. Martial arts do a great job at this. Getting to a black belt is “just” getting the basics down. Then you get to the mastery part, the degrees of black belts. It’s like a motivational GPS to keep them moving forward especially when it gets tough.

Cognitive load

Cognitive resources are scarce, limited and quickly and easily depleted.

We should be managing cognitive leaks everywhere we can.

Everywhere it leaks out we are not just hurting their ability to “do” but also hurting their life.

Cognitive resource hacks:

  • Putting it in the world instead of their head reduces cognitive drain (don’t make people remember things, make things predictable).
  • Enclothed cognition. Belief matters. Believing that you are wearing the coat of a scientist makes you better at science.
  • Posture. Super-hero stance decreases your cortisol which instantly frees cognitive resources.

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