“Feeling like magic” is a criteria that I was formally introduced to by a friend, when he was deciding what to work on next. His theory is that if a product feels like magic to its users then it will have a much better chance of succeeding in the market. This really resonated with me, so I am sharing my thoughts on what makes products feel like magic. In my view there are four main product characteristics that often work together to create a feeling of magic for the user.
- Novelty: The product is not like something you have seen or experienced before. You might even have trouble understanding how it works. It’s not hard to imagine that first demonstrations of electricity would have awed people in this way. Arthur C. Clarke’s quote “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” comes to mind.
- Usefulness: The product makes something that was once really difficult, painful or even impossible, easy. Ebay falls into this category for me. It enables me to buy things that would have been nearly impossible for me to find elsewhere, often for a great price.
- Usability: The product is effortless to use. You almost don’t have to think about it. The first time I ordered an Uber it felt like magic for this reason.You open an app, press a button and before long a car arrives to take you to your destination. At the other end you get out, say “bye” to the driver and get on with your life. To top it off no cash changes hands. So much better than trying to order a cab by phone or flagging one on the street.
- Delightfulness: The product puts a smile on your face. There is something about the way it feels and looks, that get the juices flowing. The iPhone is a great example of a delightful product. When it launched there was something really magical about the fluidity of the touch screen controls. Even today you can still see people mindlessly flicking from screen to screen just because it feels good. I am certainly guilty of delighting in this activity on occasion.
Of course, products don’t have to feel like magic to be successful. WhatsApp or Messenger never felt like magic to me, yet they are hugely successful for various other reasons. It’s also true that what feels like magic to one person might not to another. The feeling is subjective and its very much dependent on the past experiences of the users.
When building something, ask yourself if your product or service feels like magic to its users. Better yet, go and test it to check for signs of wonderment. Widened eyes, open mouths, exclamations of “Wow, that’s cool!” or a strong desire to tell someone else about it are all great signs. If you are not getting any of those signs, then it might be worth thinking about how you can sprinkle in some magic.