Mar 28, 2011

5+1 Rules For Building Great Products

At the Pacific Crest Tech Summit earlier this month, Joe Perez, EVP Product at Demand Media gave an excellent talk on building great (consumer) products. Given the controversy around Demand, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But the points Joe made are well worth sharing and I finally found some time to blog about his talk.

Rules for Great (Consumer) Products

  • Universal
  • Simple, easy (one-click benefit)
  • Viral (markets itself)
  • Network effect
  • Collects data (content, behavior, personalization)

The Secret Sauce: Chemistry
And then there’s the last rule, the secret sauce: the chemistry of all these things working well together. The best products have a set of features that work well together. It takes a lot of trial and error to get there. This seems obvious, yet it’s often over-looked. Far too many products are comprised of interesting features that fail to deliver a great experience.

Chemistry defines success.

One example Joe showed was the “food map” on Livestrong.com, which shows “what the world is eating today.” When users describe what they’re eating, that generates more and more digital signals, producing more data, and more insight into users, resulting in…

The FlyWheel Effect
Getting the flywheel effect may not happen overnight. First you have to get the right set of features, which takes a lot of trial and error; then you get to momentum.

Sheer Simplicity
Joe gave a few examples of sheer simplicity:

Twitter:

  • 140 character limit
  • Don’t have to think too much
  • Link is a very simple way to share something you’re interested in
  • So easy to use
  • Users see other users using it, which produces a network effect

Pandora:
Thumbs up, thumbs down – simple.

What else has changed? Mobile.
You can get the Internet everywhere. Users are no longer tethered to their desks. You’re always connected.

Advice for Startups

  • Early on you’re naïve, then you create a business.
  • It’s all about chemistry before you run out of time and money.
  • Focus on one thing. Then pivot if it doesn’t work.
  • Do the “self test”- will I use this product? You can do this cheaply nowadays
  • Launch fast and iterative. Don’t commit to massive releases. Make things smaller, build in bite-size chunks.

Conclusion
One thing that’s hard to capture in text is that Joe talks much the way he builds products. He delivers his messages in clear, bite-size chunks; he’s ultra-focused; and he speaks quickly. His passion for building great products is obvious.

In a world where product innovation is your acquisition strategy, it’s helpful to be reminded of the importance of focusing on chemistry, speed, and simplicity.

2 Comments

  • Congrats, great post.

  • Instead of thumbs up and down something even easier: +1 like Google. By the way, didn’t they take it from FB?

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