Very often, a market can be disrupted by a single UX improvement. That improvement may not be easy to accomplish, but when you do it, you often can build a significant company. Some examples:
Seibel was the dominant player in Sales Management. Salesforce.com comes along and says, “It’s in the cloud, not on premise”. They didn’t need a great UI. They didn’t need a different price point. Just having it easier to deploy because you didn’t need servers changed the CRM market forever.
Actually, I believe the CRM market could face another disruption as the space matures. Microsoft, Netsuite and Sugar are missing a big opportunity. If someone was to develop a much better, richer interactive user interface, I think it could take on significant momentum. The thing that Salesforce is doing well is shoring up the barrier to entry with their AppExchange. Still, UI could drive a strong differentiation.
Portable Music Players
There were plenty of MP3 players on the market. However, all of them had a horrendous experience getting music onto the device. Apple moved all of the management of the device onto desktop software (iTunes) and was able to simplify the device itself. iTunes was the UX innovation that changed the market for portable music. Today, only smart phones stand a chance of throwing the iPod off its perch.
When Google started, there were plenty of competitors out there. Alta Vista, Lycos, Yahoo and AOL, just to name a few. At the time, they didn’t have anything else. No AdWords, no android, no chrome. When I first used Google, I was struck by the simplicity of the design. The simplicity was a huge UX insight. Yahoo and the rest had an incredibly complex look. Links and links and more links everywhere. Plus the results were often inaccurate. By going completely minimal , they stood out from the competition. They were an oasis of simplicity in a sea of complexity.
The more accurate results sealed the deal. PageRank was a brilliant insight into how to structure web search. They disrupted the market for search with both simplicity and a good algorithm.
Google did it again with Google Adwords. I used to buy media from those other portals. It was human-to-human communication on the phone and email. We negotiated cost per impression. It was a wild waste of time and money. I hated every second of it. Plus it cost THEM lots of money for sales people.
Google’s insight was to put this system online and take the sales people out of the equation. Adwords wasn’t that easy, but it was better than talking to sales. It completely changed the market.
There are lots more, but this is plenty for one blog post. If you think about it, you could come up with more.