Thursday, December 1, 2011

Once out, it's not yours anymore; so make a platform

It's funny how we all get used to this idea of attachment and ownership.  When we spend time to work on a product, we often make a mistake thinking that we know how to use the product best.  We think we own the product because we designed it.  Of course we all start out with problem that we want to solve, and create a solution that best addresses the problem.

Look!  It's 24-hr live fish channel TV that runs without power.
Would TV designer thought of this use case?  Probably not... 
But in reality when users get their hands on the product, it's no longer your product.  It is now user's tool.  It's up to users to decide how to interpret the tool, and apply it to their problem to create their own solution in their own way.  I call it interpretation because it's really up to the users to decide how to use it in their own way.

I think we all tend to underestimate how creative users can be in solving their problems given the tools at their hand.  This user creativity (or improvisation as I blogged earlier) actually works for designers in some sense because as users create their own solution often far-stretching the intended the product usage, and this actually does a couple of things.  One is that product designer is led to believe that people are using the product because it's well designed.  The other is that product can be used to solve totally different problems other than the original intended problem.

These are why I think that platform story is so compelling.  If your product does one thing and one thing only, and it performs that task very well, then there is a good chance users can be more creative in how to use the tool because it's easy to understand what it does, and it can become a building block of something that's greater for many other problems that designer did not even dream of.

That is why company like Dropbox is growing so rapidly.  Because it's easy to use them as a basic tool to build something that's far greater.  Instead of anticipating how users might use the product, they focused on doing one thing very well and became a platform for many users' solutions.

1 comment: