Why Do Some Products Feel Like They’re Magical?

All successful products fall in the “magic quadrant:” they solve painful problems by providing tools that are easy and intuitive to use. But how are these products conceived of in the first place?

Last week, I spoke a bit about magic: how good technology closely resembles magic in that it seems to solve problems effortlessly. There are several reasons why this is true, but I will go over them in another post. Today, I’ll focus on a few frameworks or brainstorming techniques that have helped me come up with good products in the past.

First though, we need to agree on what is a product.

A product is a discrete result of a process that begins with a customer demand. I am here speaking of products that get exchanged for money between individuals or organizations. A product is always a result of a process, it involves the use of resources and transformation of materials into a finished thing that can be shipped or given away. This thing can be material or immaterial, it can be an experience or a piece of code, a bottle of juice, etc. The most important notion in identifying a product is that it was conceived in the context of a marketplace by a person or group of individuals who seek to aid another person or group of individuals, and in order to be exchanged for money. That is, if I sell or provide products, it is in response to a need I see and am trying to provide for that need.

Most of us will probably think of products within the context of an organization we already work for or built ourselves. I will therefore speak of creating products from within an organization.

Organizations can either do what they already do in a better way, i.e.: improve their products, or do something that they’ve never done before, i.e.: launch new products.

The quadrants may be good to categorize products in the making but, you may have noticed, they lack a crucial success factor: how do we define and measure pain and ease of use? If we don’t have clear definitions for these two axes, then the utility of this guide is null. We therefore need to define them in objective ways that teams can agree on in order to produce great products.

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