Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thinking About Your Products As Solutions

The post by Dan Shipper about a talk he had with 37signals' visionary Jason Fried was one of the best reads I've had in blogs recently. One could (but shouldn't) summarize it as "stop thinking about products and start thinking about solutions".
The first thing that you need to find out is what job your product does.
This is something I learned a long time ago and has been in my mind more frequently theses days. I first heard of this concept in a class back in 2002. A professor asked us about McDonald's business. "Sell food" or "sell hamburgers" were most of the answers. "You're wrong", he told us. He said, "McDonald's sell us a full solution package". McDonald's specialty is a solution for parents. You take you kids there and buy a Happy Meal, which includes enough, tasty food to get them satisfied. They also get a toy that will entertain them for a few hours and, on some stores, get to play in giant toys outside.

Dan Shipper talks about how customers are always switching to your product from something else. In some cases, it's another product. But when there isn't a competitor product involved, they are switching from a process or even something entirely different.
That means one of two things: either you don’t understand your product, or no one wants what you’re selling. Every product has competitors. Sometimes they’re other products and sometimes they’re human processes.
I for one will try to keep all those ideas in mind when designing my next project. What are people switching from? What is the real goal of my product? What value does it actually brings to the user? Those are all important question that all of us need to answer very early in the designing process.

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