How to build products that people crave for and pay for?

Vijay Balachandran
Oct 15, 2014 · 5 min read

The user expectation and UX quotient are NOT CONSTANT to understand these cues once and successfully bank on that understanding every other time. Tomorrow we might stop using Facebook when our network moves to a different platform or when we find a better tool that offers a greater cause to shift. This happened to Orkut and recently Google shut it down for good.

User expectation continues to evolve, even unknowingly for the user, in such a way that it becomes tricky for an outsider to constantly arrive at what a user wants. In 2010, I remember saying this to my friend, “I like Orkut’s interface more than Facebook and I am not comfortable using Facebook because there is no focus on the news feed and I get distracted by the apps and other sections on the side panel”. Orkut was ruling the subcontinent then. But I was made to change my perspective later, just because my network moved and Facebook matched its expectations.

If you are an ardent user of a product and if you understand the nuances of what works and what not, for a wider audience, you stand a good chance to identify the users’ evolving needs.

The following checklist is a guide for you to monitor few winning nooks while designing a product or feature:

1. Hook’em in

Make sure users can activate, access and realize the utility of the feature in a few simple steps. Understand the natural instincts of a user when s/he approaches the feature.

Hooked is a great literature that talks about how to make it easy for the user to get acquainted with a tool. You can read this summary to understand what this book is all about. In simple terms it talks about how to make a user invest in an app and repeatedly visit it by making every touchpoint simple and worthwhile.

2. Make it socially adoptable

If the utility of a feature depends upon more people in a user’s circle adopting it, your design options could vary depending upon whether it is a personal app or a business app. Think through if you need to provide options to invite people, send simple triggers for a individual to activate it, use it regularly, or allow admins to rollout the feature to their community.

All project management tools, customer support applications, chat applications, social tools capitalize on this theory and they all depend on groups of people to wholeheartedly accept the interface and utility of the product for wholesome success.

3. Offer visible productivity hacks

Tools like Evernote, Mint, OnePassword etc. just help the end users do things easily which they were not able to, earlier. These tools make note taking, money managing, password handling easier for the user, respectively. The utility and productivity delivered by these apps is so visible and interpretable that they emerged as instant hits.

4. Help grow personally

Ask yourself this question.

Does the tool help a user become a better person that s/he actually wants to come back to the app quite often?

If you answer “Yes” that is a great sign of success too. LinkedIn, Khan academy, Coursera, Udacity and blogging platforms like Hackerearth, Reddit etc. are all great examples for setting such a premise for the user. These tools offer ways for visitors to incrementally hop to next level, either by teaching new ideas or exposing them to a new world or by helping them showcase the better side of themselves.

5. Make one look good

You know how it feels when hundreds of people start following you in a whisker or when flocks of friends in your network ‘like’ and ‘comment’ on an action you took in your life and posted on social media.

Yes, I am talking about Twitter and Facebook. These social tools let you broadcast or brag about your viewpoints, achievements and actions to the world and there by invite people to constantly engage with you.

A simple utility offered by a commenting platform like Disqus can do wonders for the blog writers in a similar fashion.

6. Inspire change

I was never motivated enough to learn Photoshop or confident enough to start a project until I came across some great works of other people via applications like Behance, Dribble and Kickstarter.

Their workflow and scale of collating projects from the lengths and breadths of the world just allows anyone to present their stuff and become popular. Also it inspired people like me who visit such sites out of curiosity to understand what these great people have to offer everyday. (Here I would like to remind you about “Hooked” and the concept of “Variable Rewards”)

7. Solve a problem differently, effectively and efficiently

Once you are accustomed to the way of handling a feature you can easily spot how much of value a simple improvement to that way of working offers.

Though we are so used to Gmail and Outlook we still crave for tools like Mailbox that help us read and manage our mails efficiently and easily.

And so..

If the functional and process side of feature and product development lies in the disciplined execution of agile practices, managing Customer Development interviews and feature iterations, creative side of feature development lies in the understanding of facts mentioned above and depends more on the evolving needs of user that are mostly non-comprehendible to the end user himself.

Design of a SaaS business

This collection is all about building a tech business on web, from idea to exit

    Vijay Balachandran

    Written by

    Love great products / Crave for simplicity and sustainability in design / Strive to be sensible and relevant

    Design of a SaaS business

    This collection is all about building a tech business on web, from idea to exit