I recently ended a meeting on the now-ubiquitous Zoom. As with many times before, a few attendees would unmute themselves to speak. Even though I’ve used Zoom for years now, the particular shortcut (spacebar!) eluded me. Partly because of forgetting to look it up after a call was over, and partly because it’s not an action I do very often. I just click the mute/unmute button when needed via mouse.
Perhaps I dislike the mode because it requires a temporal action: holding down the spacebar to unmute versus switching between modes with a little bit more…depth? Permanence? Commitment?
Regardless, it made me realize I only have some semblance of competency with so many available products. Very few require me to master them. In most of these cases, it’s because I learn just enough to enable me to achieve what I set out to do. Beyond that, certain features are tucked away unless it’s something I do often or repetitively, thereby unlocking a 🤯 mode when I do discover them.
. . .
Over the years as I have collaborated with clients on product builds, I’ve watched teams establish roadmaps, requirements and needs and wishes, solutions, and metrics—all of which make me take a step back and ask, “How many people need this?”
A good feature or product is ideally created to serve real needs, solve problems, or even, just be fun.
But ultimately, I wonder, whether aloud within teams I work with or when designing for myself, is x or y or z worth the investment?
A typical person, myself included, uses a product for the reasons it promotes as beneficial. Perhaps this is 90%–100% of the product in the early stages. As a product becomes stable, sees growth, and with opportunity knocking (investors, shares, big plans), the percentage shifts. The gap grows. Over time, a product either has to double down and improve by adapting to technology and user behavior, or it broadens its offerings to capture more people.
How many users straddle the line between competency and mastery? How much does your product need to do a couple of things brilliantly vs. all of the things decently?
As a designer, I like to think that what I do has great impact (don’t we all?). However, using myself as an example, I recognize there are only a few basic things I care about for a product to be deemed THE product to use for whatever the intended task.
To reiterate, many things contribute to this — scale, ambition, growth, profit, and how many investors you have. 😉
At its core, though, a product should execute so well that it’s necessary to those who love it. Do you create a product that people love or one that is simply tolerated? Do you build a product that people must choose to master, or do you make a product where everyone IS the master?
. . .
Thanks for reading,