Irreplaceability is directly proportional to dependency
Dependency of whom? Users.
Remember the first time you made an account on facebook or twitter? Or bought a new smartphone?
You had to, just had to try all the features it had to offer. It was fun to add friends, follow people, poke strangers and do everything you could possibly do. It was fun while it lasted and it didn’t last long.
After a while, when we are done playing with it, we decide how we want to use a certain product. We start weighing its features and start questioning whether it’s actually useful.
To be very frank, I use products which I’m completely dependent on. If I were given a chance to carry on with my life without having to use even a single product, it would be just perfect. Now, don’t get me wrong. I totally love beautifully designed products with their awesome features but however hard I try, that love doesn’t last long if the product doesn’t offer something irreplaceable or something really fun.
For instance, lets talk about Gmail. Every now and then I come across a product that claims to replace email or Gmail. Yeah, for me, Gmail is email. Till today I haven’t found a product that I can think of as a replacement for Gmail. After all, I find it really useful for making any kind of conversation with people. It would really matter to me if I weren’t able to access my Gmail acount for even a day. It has become a part of my life and I’m not ready to give it up for something else unless it has something really unique to offer and makes me say, “this is really good”.
You may call facebook addictive or may call it a reason for your procrastination but the truth is that you are deeply dependent on it in order to stay in touch with your family and friends or may be just friends. It has become a way of life and you seem ready to tolerate anything for a few good things it has to offer.
Instagram still hasn’t been able to make a place in my life because I think I can do without sharing pictures of my food and having people to follow me for it. I’d rather share photos which actually matter on Facebook with my friends and family.
Then, there are products which treat you the way you treat them. A lot of people I’ve come across find twitter of no use. They say that they don’t have something to share every 5 minutes. On the other hand, a lot of people use twitter as their business card,to get in touch with new people and to explore new oppurtunities. What you get out of it depends on how you use it.
Products with a specific utility are immune to fashion.
If you ask someone — what do they use to make calls, They’ll probably ask you if you are from the stone age. It’s obvious, a phone. A phone was invented to solve this particular problem. Although, today it is no more than one of the various features. But the specific utility of a phone is making calls. Now, there are tablet computers out there with similar features but that is not their basic utility. You may say that tablets offer a better gaming experience or make web-surfing a breeze but you’ll have to agree that phones have better reason to exist in this world than tablets. Who knows, may be tomorrow a device that offers even better gaming or reading experience will be launched and everyone will be going nuts about it. But, even then a product will continue to exist. Yeah, you guessed it. Phones. And you will still be using one.
In order to be irreplaceable you have to be unique.
If you are building a product, it’s your job to make your product’s name to be the first to pop in somebody’s head as soon as they think of the problem your product claims to solve. It’s your job to offer something that no one out there is. It’s your job to give your users a reason to use your product because trust me, they’ll do anything for not having to.
Don’t build bags of features. Solve problems.
As I said earlier, tomorrow, a new product with more or even better features will be launched and people will go mad about it. And you will be struggling to give your users a reason to use your product. The most successful products are the ones which pick up a particular problem and make it easy. Those are the products whose names pop in your head as soon as you think of the problem they claim to solve. That is what makes them irreplacable (almost). We depend on them.
Whatever you are building, if you are ready to settle for a fraction of users using your product, it’s alright. But if you are a bit more ambitious, take a moment and ask yourself — What does it offer that others out there aren’t?