A few things, done easier

Have you recently read about a product and thought: “it does too much?” Yet it’s also easy to disqualify a product or service as too narrow and “not for me”. How do you split the gap and build for the people who really want (and need) what you are selling without simply disappearing into the noise?

Taking a look at an everyday need (daily frequency, high recall, habit-forming) is a good frame for thinking about product decisions. Take the mundane experience of drinking coffee (sorry tea drinkers, this applies to you as well but the parameters might be different.)

As a coffee drinker, I want to have a hot beverage that stays warm, is true to taste, and (ideally) doesn’t spill. It would be great if that was a portable container, and was reusable. Bonus points if the container was nicely designed, had a good feel when held as a cup, and was durable.

I can imagine what you might be thinking at this point: why bother having a design discussion about a coffee cup? It’s exactly because the discussion is mundane that it’s important. Design decisions about materials might be optimized for heat retention (stainless steel liner) or grip (handle, or grippy finish) or the top (does it have one, and how easy is it to remove or drink out of) or price (is the target market $5, $10, or $50).

This coffee cup wins for me because it does a few things really well:

  1. Keeps the coffee warm for a long time
  2. Doesn’t spill easily
  3. Easy to hold

Note that it doesn’t have a handle. The traditional mug design wasn’t followed here. It also isn’t the cheapest coffee mug I have. Yet it’s the one I use every day.

What are the lessons you can take to your next product or design decision? Do fewer things well, and buyers will find you. Be open to changing long-held beliefs, especially around habit-driven items. Measure the results based on input goals and output results. And enjoy your coffee!

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