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From: Paul H. Christiansen12/29/2017 1:55:29 PM
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Signs of a Great Product or Feature

- by Ben Bajarin

I often get to speak with entrepreneurs as well as a lot of VC/early stage investors and one thing I get asked quite a bit is what to look for that signals a product or product experience is great. I want to share a few brief highlights that I consider show signs of a great product.

Great Products Create New Behaviors
One of the hallmark features of a great product is when it creates a new behavior almost instantly. This is very hard to do, which is why it is the one I start off with when I talk about great product features. Humans are largely resistant to change, and as our research often points out, behavioral debt makes it very hard to teach old dogs new tricks.

There may be many examples to pull from, but I think TouchID/FaceID come to my mind first as classic examples of creating a new behavior. Touch ID bad logging into your phone not only easier and faster but more securely. It eliminated the friction of swiping to unlock with a simple press to unlock experience. This created a new behavior nearly instantly for all who tried it and never looked back. In fact, another way to look at this point is when a feature makes it hard to go back to the old way doing something then you know it’s a great product. This speaks to the behavior change but also the end user perception that the new way is better than the old way of doing something.

For those of us who use FaceID, or if you used a facial log in like Windows Hello, then you can relate to the ways that not having to press any buttons at all to log-into your devices or anything requiring a password is far superior to a fingerprint log-in. FaceID, for me, has already created new behaviors as when I pick up my iPad, or an old iPhone, I wait for it to log-in with my face, but those devices don’t have FaceID, so then I just feel awkward. But this is an example of how quickly a great feature creates a new habit or behavior, and the old way of doing things seems archaic.

All signs of a great product or feature.

Creating New Expectations
Another sign of a great product or feature is when it creates new expectations. The way I articulate this is when you use a new product or feature and love it so much that whenever it doesn’t work you get mad or irritated. A mentor of mine once explained that anger (or frustration) is the result of an unmet expectation. I adapted this to my point here to show that when we like a new product or feature enough that when it doesn’t work, we get mad, then we know it is a sign of a great experience.

Yes, it seems counterintuitive, but the emotion is just the evidence that said company is onto something. An example here is voice interfaces. In some qualitative studies we did around the voice UI we found time and time again consumers love using their voice to engage with computers, particularly to execute complex tasks or tasks that would have taken longer to manually input. Searching the web, setting alarms, playing games, etc. However, we found high levels of irritation when the voice agent like Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant, didn’t work as advertised.

I viewed this as signs that there is potential here for this technology because of how voice interactions are simpler for complex tasks. One of the reasons search is one of the top use cases for voice assistants. People tend to enter long text queries into the search box, and for many, it is simply easier to use your voice.

Once You Experience It, You Can’t Live Without It
Lastly, and maybe this is obvious, but maybe it isn’t, the sign of a great product or feature is that if it were taken away your life would be impacted. Put shortly, you can’t live without it, and more specifically you don’t want to. Obviously, our smartphones are one of the best examples of this, but I was reminded of this recently with a recent purchase I made for my wife for her 40th birthday.

For her birthday I bought her a robot vacuum. Top of the line, packed with smart features and sensors, vacuuming robot. Now, I’m sure many of you question this choice of present for a rather significant birthday. However, she REALLY wanted one. After a few weeks of owning it, I/we can’t live without it. We practically don’t vacuum at all anymore because this little thing takes care of everything in all our main rooms, and even most of the upstairs of our house. This little gadget has become indispensable not just because of how much time it saves us not having to vacuum but because it works and delivers on its promise.

These are a few of the main things I look for when evaluating products/features or services that help me determine if something can truly make an impact in the market and with the customers who use them.
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