FastCompany recently took a fascinating deep-dive into the strategy and tactics behind Square’s design. It’s a terrific read, if only to explain the design genius behind a thoroughly under-appreciated feat of engineering. It’s certainly no surprise that the Square team would have taken so much time perfecting it’s design, which delivers a beautiful-yes, I think it’s beautiful-fast and truly effortless interface. The biggest surprise here is how difficult it was to deliver the price they needed to hit.
It’s a longheld marketing reality that you can have your timeline, your price or your scope, but never all three. Such realities don’t cut it at Square. What is going on here is Square making a strategic longterm bet on mobile payments. Their top brass felt that someone has to suck it up price-wise to get the market moving. It’s a loss-leader mentality, but not in the quintessential razor-and-razor-blade mode. It’s more in the “we’ll pay a lot more now for a big slice of this worthless pie, betting that we can make this pie worth a bundle if we make the first move.” And Square’s engineering team has succeeded in a big way, not merely in capturing marketshare but in moving the entire market.