Why should users pick your product?

Tens of apps to send messages to people you know, at least 5 apps that let you call someone, 4–5 apps that let you find your way in a city, and 3–4 apps that let you hail a ride: we live in a world of increasing choice, and if you’re building products or services — it’s hard to make your product stand out as something users will gravitate to and love. Trade-off, by Kevin Maney (author of several books and columnist for USA Today) offers a very useful lens to differentiate successful products from lackluster ones through what he calls “the fidelity swap”

At the heart of Trade-off is a very simple idea — people tend to pick products that either offer them unparalleled fidelity — i.e. an end-to-end experience that’s unmatched by competitors (the iPhone is a classic example that comes to mind) or unparalleled convenience — i.e. the ability to solve their problems in the quickest possible way. Maney argues that while making product decisions, optimizing for either the best possible experience or the highest convenience (i.e lowest cost) will be a much better strategy to grow users than attempting to chase after both these axes.

Maney expands on these ideas really well, offering many examples of how popular products, brands, and services (like Tesla, Starbucks, Second Life, Walmart — to name a few) have instinctively understood and built their strategy around picking the sweet spot on the fidelity vs convenience graph — and how companies have failed in trying to simultaneously chase both. Or even staying still — as new technologies and products push out the boundaries of acceptable fidelity and convenience

I’ve often found this to be a very useful mental model as a Product Manager — often while thinking through features I’m designing I’ll stop to ponder — what will this particular feature add to the fidelity or the convenience of the product, and how do I tweak it to try and move the product along one of these axes to add the most value?

If you’re either building or marketing products, I strongly recommend giving Trade-off a read — you can get it on Amazon here.

If you liked this post, definitely do give Trade-off a read and please click the green heart below to recommend. Thanks :)

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