Usage Scenarios: How users can surprise product developers and why to ship early

From my own product-experience, I’ve noticed that users sometimes use products in scenarios that product-developers hadn’t necessarily considered or thought of as potentially popular usage scenarios.

While writing about Twitter and its impact on election protests, I mentioned that

On another note, when twitter was first conceived, it was probably designed for the North American market and the founders had probably not thought about how their product could help democratize the world.  However,  that has now become an important usage scenario for the product. There is an important lesson here for all startup companies.

This is an important point that is worth calling out seperately. Several other companies (e.g. PayPal) have also learned about new usage scenarios and seen their products evolve after shipping the v1 version of the product

It is easy for product teams to spend hours on discussing open issues relating to product features. Many of these discussions are interesting and some of them may even lead to better decisions. However, opinions within the product team need to be balanced with usage data and good customer feedback , and sometimes decisions should be defered in favor of allowing the product to evolve *after* it ships. 

Basic (pre-ship) market research is good for startup companies and should be done when possible and appropriate, but it also important to keep in mind that the market can prove (pre-ship) market-research and developer-opinions wrong. That makes ‘Ship early, ship often’ a good philosophy for startups as long as the product doesn’t compromise on basic quality (e.g. ability of the app to meet its primary v1 goal, app stability, does it feel right etc.).

The market will give you great research-information for the next version of your product (and potentially for your other future products as well).  Product developers can be surprised at how user perception of the product (and market demand for the product) differs from their original notion of what the market wanted.

3 Responses to Usage Scenarios: How users can surprise product developers and why to ship early

  1. Lacy says:

    Pretty nice post. I just came by your blog and wanted to say
    that I have really liked browsing your posts. Anyway
    I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  2. Brand Loyalty And IMC Internet Programs |Internet Marketing says:

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  3. Scott Porad says:

    I wrote a blog post awhile back called “Launching: The Only Thing that Matters” which touches upon similar themes. It’s here: http://scottporad.com/2009/06/22/launching-the-only-thing-that-matters/

    I talked about it more from the perspective of putting resources at risk, but your point is 100% correct as well…you just don’t know what users are going to do until you launch.

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