No one who’s going to use your product really gives a damn about what your product actually does or what it looks like.
The thing that really matters is what it enables the people who use your product to do and what they feel about themselves after using it.
Behind each well-loved product there’s usually a hidden problem that it’s solving for people. A core belief or value that it taps in to that we may not have been aware of.
Instapaper wasn’t really about helping you to read more. It was about providing a way for you to reduce your anxiety, at least in the short term, about missing stuff.
It feels obvious now but before Google Maps or Foursquare, we had to spend precious time planning journeys before we set out. And agreed meet up points had to be kept to. These apps lifted many of those restrictions on us, allowed us to push back on complex decision making in advance.
What’s the actual, underlying problem?
It’s all too easy to see or invent the wrong kind of problem and then try to solve it, in order to sell solutions.
Real, underlying, gritty problems are the kind of problems that no one would think to articulate. Usually, these problems are deeply hidden, so anticipating them is hard.
As Kathy Sierra puts it “We don’t have an engagement problem. So an engagement platform is not the answer.”
The *really* interesting problems usually appear when people start to use a product.
That’s why I so admire people and organisations that launch products early, in the hope of learning more about the actual problem and context, from real people. They have the spine to acknowledge that they can only get to some of the answers by themselves, unless they’re very lucky.
As a friend pointed out, think Google Glass and its rough utility at this stage as ‘the beginnings of something that will be informed by use’, compared to the longer, perfection-seeking and extremely guarded product life cycle of Apple.
It somehow feels more honest to admit you can only go so far with your best thinking before you need to launch and learn whether you really do solve important enough problems for people or empower them in a way that’s compelling enough for them to love you.