Is a Good Idea Enough for an Excellent Product?

It’s been a couple of months since I wrote an article last time (shame). I have been busy with product transformation lately. It also prompted me to rethink how to turn an idea into a product. After some twists and turns, I realized several things: 1. It’s easier said than done; 2. It’s easy to do things, but it’s hard to do valuable things because the key to a successful product is not the idea, but whether value can be created.

As a product manager, my brain is always packed with various ideas. The ideas may come from some user feedback, or some interesting functions of a competitor’s product, or a whim during a dream (mistake)… Some of them are so wild, and others are based on meticulous logical reasoning. But how should we determine which ideas to take, and which ideas will work when carried out?

Assess if your idea is valuable before starting to plan.

An important part of a product manager’s daily routine is “demand management” (i.e. demand collection → demand analysis → demand filtering (prioritizing based on the goals). That is to identify demands with customers and plan a viable program through qualitative/quantitative research.

Demands reflect a certain goal users hope to achieve. It can be a pain point to solve, or an itchy point to satisfy. If a product helps a user well achieve his goal, the value of the product is realized. And that is the goal a product manager tries to reach consistently.

If we misjudge the user’s pain point or product value, it implies that much related work cannot achieve its effect because the product doesn’t improve the user’s life.

The most common example is “an electric drill and a hole in the wall.” If now a user says he wants an electric drill, why? He wants to drill a hole in the wall. Why? He wants to hang a painting on the wall to make his home more artistic, so that he can feel at ease when he is home. If we fail to figure out the reason for a user’s demand, we may just throw in resources for implementation, thinking our own idea will greatly satisfy the user’s need. But in the end we may offer him an expensive multi-function electric drill, instead of rapidly drilling a hole in the wall to hang a painting.  

Why should users use your products after all?

This is the question we should ask ourselves consistently when planning a product. In addition to the basic user demands, the product logic of the whole project should also be taken into account. For example, DiDi’s O2O Platform launched the carpooling feature so that drivers can pick up more passengers to earn more and passengers can take a ride at a lower price. The overall carrier efficiency is improved. Such solution has clear demand logic and operates well.

Clear product logic is the core. But more often than not, we come up with a conclusion first and then try to find some arguments to support the conclusion. I remember a product manager I interviewed some time ago. He was working on a 3D virtual avatar-based social app.

I said, “Please describe what value your product provides to users.”

The interviewee responded, “Many people dare not use their own photos when socializing with strangers due to lack of self-confidence, so we provide 3D virtual avatars, allowing them to chat with others freely.”

I asked, “Why can 3D virtual avatars satisfy these users?”

The interviewee replied, “3D characters have always been the technological advantage of my company. Plus, the presentation is fun. So, it should be great for users to use it as an avatar.”

I wonder what you think of the interviewee’s reply. It can be found from the conversation that he already had a precondition. That is, the 3D character technology is cool and is also the company’s competitive edge, and should be a great selling point if it is used as user’s avatars in a social app.

Therefore, the production of the product is centered on how to create more movements and delicate expressions for the 3D virtual avatars, instead of satisfying the user’s demand to “have more self-confidence or present a better self when socializing with strangers.” However, it costs a fortune to develop 3D virtual avatars, and they require higher performance on cellphones. It turns out that even the need for such a basic function as chatting cannot be met. The chatting process is slow simply because a 3D character is making various movements in the background.

6 questions to examine your product model

1. The existence of market: Is this market mature? For example, the VR market is not mature compared with the e-commerce market. Users and associated applications are still in their infancy.

2. The existence of demands: Are the demands imaginary or real? For example, the course evaluation websites for selecting university courses, home cleaning and nail services, and homemade food platforms. We should think if these demands are nice-to-have, or must-to-have, and whether to reduce user’s cost or increase efficiency.

3. The existence of users: Assessment should be made against the demand to realize whether target users exist, how many users there are, and whether there are enough users to support the product expansion. For example, although there is demand for customized high-end birthday presents, the number of users who have such demand, the frequency they use it, and the amount they are willing to pay should be assessed.

4. The possibility of provision: Assessment should be made to figure out if you are able to offer products or services. For content websites, it may refer to the officially provided articles, namely PGC, or user generated content via platform, i.e. UGC, such as Tik Tok. And, can we generate or encourage users to generate content?

5. Supporting scenarios: Sometimes users have demands, but without an appropriate scenario, product value cannot be provided. Take AR virtual makeup as an example. Users do have need for online makeup, but the corresponding scenario should be like this: a user is recommended a certain lipstick and hopes to buy it when browsing a makeup blogger’s Weibo blog, or searches for a foundation fit for oneself when surfing on Taobao websites. Without these scenarios, it is hard to realize the true value of the virtual makeup.

6. Experience: In an era of consumption upgrade, experience is king. An increasing number of people attach importance to service. To provide users with a better experience without charging more helps improve product retention and loyalty.

So, when an idea strikes us, don’t rush to throw in resources for implementation. We should stop and think over the above questions.

I like the way Cheetah Mobile CEO Fu Sheng put it, “Target, path, resources.” Identify your target first and then consider the paths to reach the target, while thinking how available resources can support to carry out the truly valuable ideas and bring a better life to users.

About the author:
Livia Yang
Adventurer, UX Designer, PM . “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”
Photographer : https://www.instagram.com/liviayang123/
Contact info:  liviayang.ms@gmail.com

This article is excerpted from “Is a Good Idea Enough for an Excellent Product?” with the consent of Livia Yang.

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