The 3C’s to Great Product Experiences

Remember these three simple but powerful principles while designing product experiences

Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of articles and frameworks expounding on how to make products that people love. They list things like…

… Make it Simple… Make it User-Friendly… Build it with Soul… Design it for Scale… Sweat the Details… Use great Design… Solve a real Problem…

Compelling and memorable, right? Wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, these are all valid and I can appreciate articles furthering the product design discussion. However, these frameworks — or tools — become so comprehensive and complicated that they become too cumbersome to use. After all, a tool that you don’t use just becomes dead weight, slowing you down in the process.

No one sets out to create a product that is complicated, unappealing, slipshod or superfluous. Something happens along the way.

You think about good models, but great models help you think.

With that in mind, this is my version of a model that is comprehensive yet easy to remember so it can help you think through product experiences.

Feel free to copy and share, liberally


The first and undoubtedly most important principle is figuring out what is Compelling about the experience.

Forget for a second all the lingo like ‘Unique Selling / Buying Proposition’ or ‘Job to be Done’. Consider the product from a human being’s perspective and ask:

What is the single most compelling thing about this product?
Why should someone care?
How would a person describe this to a friend?

This is where you need to employ empathy and insights (that you’ve hopefully gained through research) to filter your inherent biases as creator.

Maybe it does solve a pain, or maybe it provides some pleasure. Maybe it is unique, or maybe it is a commodity that has an emotional resonance. It’s much easier to back into the bullet points and lingo after you’re able to explain this in a simple, conversational sentence.

Make no mistake though, being able to articulate this idea is not easy. But once you have it down, you have a principle to guide your designs and a pitch for investors. If you don’t have it yet, then don’t bother moving onto the next principle.


The second principle is all about taking that compelling idea and extending it over time and touch-points.

Great products require great experiences, and experiences happen over time. Having one great product experience is a fling. Instead, think about why a person would have a relationship with the product over time.

Why and when will someone use it again?
What triggers or hooks bring people back?
How could it fit into someone’s routine or ritual?

Growth hackers have a lot of ways to measure this: retention, attrition, engagement, activity. Just remember, the less frequent the use, the harder it is to retain mindshare.

• —
As an aside, certain products (like travel sites) aren’t meant for daily usage, which is why alternate strategies like investing in ads are used to singe the brand in the back of our brains. — •

Ideally the motivation or reason to re-engage is deeply embedded in the experience. Or perhaps the experience becomes part of someone’s routine, or better yet, part of someone’s ritual.


The last principle deals with building on initial experiences to unlock new kinds of value over time and establish competitive advantages.

Each time a person engages with the product, it requires an investment in the product. It could be time, money, information, attention. Instead of thinking of experiences as a series of engagements, imagine them as a series of investments. And just like great investments, great experiences can compound over time to create exponential value.

How could the product get better the more it is used?
Why should someone invest more time or effort in the product?
How can new information create an even more compelling experience?

Consider a music streaming service, like Rdio, or any platform with a recommendation engine. The more you listen to and like songs the greater the investment you are making in that platform. As a result, the platform can return smarter and smarter suggestions of what else you might like. Over time, this creates more value for users and makes it less appealing to switch to a competing service.

The same principle is at work with social networks. The more people that join, the greater the network effect and more entrenched the platform.

When designing a product experience,
don’t lose sight of the larger human experience

It is very easy to get lost in designing pixels and optimizing screen flows. You lose perspective on the larger human experience, how the product lives in a person’s world and changes over time.

Every now and then take a step back, try to look at it from an outsider’s perspective, and ask yourself:

Is it Compelling? What is the single reason someone should care?
Is it
Continual? Why & When will the person come back?
Is it
Compounding? What new value is created over time?

Hopefully this model is simple enough to keep in the back of your mind and powerful enough to help you create great product experiences.

Special thanks to Ash for edits and feedback.

If you agree with this model, please click Recommend below. If you don’t or think it can be improved, let me know in the comments!