First the Disclaimer : This is not a mac fanboy post. I am loosely stereotyping the 3 kinds of users based on the 3 OSes - Mac, Windows and Linux. This is mainly to drive home the point of how an "ideal user" will help your product become better and better. The "Mac User", who I call - can also be a Windows, Linux,BeOs,OS 390.... user. OS X has been successful mainly because of their Users - look at the amount of podcasts, fan sites, hints sites, magazines for this platform alone. Apple listens to these feedbacks - and incorporates some into every release of their OS.
I am tending to call these "ideal users" as "Mac Users". Had linux/windows had the same level of success - will be labeling them likewise. Shall we move on? :)
Here are some reasons why you need Mac users.
1. They demand Perfection
This is from my personal experience. Some of the CxO users, ex-Entrepreneurs who use our product - just cannot stand mediocrity or minor bugs. As developers we gloss over things and we fail to cross the 't's and dot the 'i's. But this irritates the hell out of these high achievers. When I look things through their eyes - it does make sense. Any aberrations - big or small - breaks the flow and harmony.
Switch to Linux Desktop. The flow gets broken everywhere. The applications are not consistent - each one I have to remember where I should go to do a certain thing. There are KDE apps, and Gnome Apps - and some apps who do not follow any school of UI philosophy. It kills me. Linux as a Desktop has a very long way to go.
Windows 7 has come a long way from the Windows ME days. Still there are certain things that does not make sense - like exporting an Excel file as a CSV file - you have to put up with 3 dialog boxes - twice. This is sheer madness.
2. They improve your Product
The best part of working with the "Mac users" is they give great ideas. We built the initial product based on our knowledge / creativity. After that the product has grown from these inputs given by our users. They bring lot of expertise and cross-functional knowledge to the table. The earlier you identify them it is better for the product. Any prototypes you are building, or just want to bounce an idea about a feature - these are the users you should call first. They have a big picture view of your product - on functionality / usability / and even marketability.
Then there are the linux and windows users. Linux users will be bent on functionality without any respect to the marketability of the feature. Stay away. The Windows users might want a feature that is there in an X ( eg. in Tally or SAP ). They will not understand that building it will flush the usability down the drain - or how it does not fit with the overall design philosophy. Give them a hearing, explain why you might not incorporate - leave it at that.
3. The Best Part - They pay you
These demanding users also pay you - ungrudgingly. They do not haggle with you, they respect your business model, they do not ask you to sell Pizza online and give the product free, they do not ask you to do what X is doing and follow their model and hence give the product free. They respect what you have built - and pay because they see value. If they are not paying - then there is no value in the product. Loud and Clear.
Now going back to the 3 OSes - OS X, Linux and Windows - see the kind of users / followers each group has. Apple is lucky to have the kind of crowd following them ( Power users, artists, designers... ). All apple has to do now onwards is to listen - the best ideas come from their users - not from 1, Infinite Loop anymore.
So - have you identified your Mac Users?