Many new product ideas were good, but failed miserably after launch, could not drive more users, even though the research shows that there is a real need, the real pain to be solved.

Many entrepreneurs have risked their life’s savings, investor’s money, their reputations, promises to employees and partners, to build a product, but failed.

You can blame budgetary constraints for marketing and promotions, but if your product/service lags in essential elements, promoting the same with a huge budget is not sustainable.

Remarkable marketing is the art of building things worth noticing right into your product or service – Seth Godin

We have seen various products that have bombed in the market, even after huge marketing efforts. Yes, The marketing team can get initial users, but repeat users/buyers need a good product/service.

Designing a product with mere novelties is a subtle trap. Users may describe it as “Cool” the first time, when shown to them and may talk about the product to their friends, but many of them will not buy if it is rarely useful. Your marketing can make Early adopters buy cool stuff but will lie in closet, due to lack of usefulness.

There are more and more choices for the customer, and they don’t have time to listen and understand your pitch, making our product, service invisible.

ROI from TV Advertisements, Newspapers are dwindling down(People are changing channels, skip ads when commercials play. Can you remember what ads you saw in today’s newspaper). Permission marketing is drying up. Viral networks are jamming up.

People aren’t likely to have easily solvable problems. Satisfied customers are less likely to tell their friends unless the product Vows them. Quite a big challenge for present generation products/services.

So, how to make a product like Facebook or Whatsapp where customers regularly use on their own, again and again without any ads or promotions or aggressive messaging and help in promoting the product. How to create high user engagement with our products/services?

Most of the majority of product success stories are engineered from the first day to be successful.


Most of our products and services are aimed at solving a major customer pain since that is the most profitable.

Vitamins, won’t solve any obvious pain, but satisfy our emotional needs. Vitamins are optional to use, so users may not be tempted or compelled to use.

What kind of pains does Facebook solve? Is it a Painkiller or Vitamin? You can call Facebook as a Vitamin, as it is not solving any obvious major pain. But after continuous usage of Facebook and Whatsapp for a longer period, if you stop using it for two weeks, how will you feel. Will you not feel some stress, tension, anxiety?

Facebook or Whatsapp is like a drug, where the usage starts like a vitamin, but after prolonged use, you feel pain if you stop using, thereby the Facebook becomes a painkiller drug.

Before Facebook or Whatsapp, we never needed a product like this, but after repeated use, we cannot live without them. So, some products can be called Painkillers, some can be called Vitamins, and few can be called DRUGS, a dangerous addiction. Based on your product category, we need to consider few more elements while designing our product/service. Is it possible to convert a product/service into a drug and addict users?


One of the answers for most of the failures is that the product or service does not meet a real user need or solve a problem, people really care about. Often, users do not always recognize their needs, problems properly, nor do their needs match with what experts think. User research will help us to solve this conundrum.

Until Steve Jobs introduced iPhone in 2007, nobody knew they had a need for the smartphone.

Today, A smartphone is an integral part of every one of us. iPhone is an example for a User developing the need when he knows about the innovation/product.

Professor Edgar Dale was fond of saying:”We may want food but not need it. And we may need vitamins and minerals and fail to want them.”

It was a designer’s job to understand the need and not customer’s job to define those needs in ambiguous terms. Identifying need or pain is essential for the success of a product, but then we need also to identify the associated emotional items.

Denis J Hauptly says “We have to ask right questions to Users because our Frame of Reference is different from them. Sometimes, we are asking questions that we want to hear the answer to, not questions that we need to hear the answer to.”

Can you tell me what need/pain Facebook solves? Boredom? Loneliness? Frustration? Confusion? Sharing Joy? Social Acceptance? Looks like a more emotional need than functional need? But Facebook or Whatsapp has connected the Emotional Quotient with Utility. Without Utility, focussing on Emotional Quotient alone will not sustain the users.


Selection of users or customers plays a major role in spreading your idea. Making product for everybody is like a product for Nobody – Target a Niche, focus and try to overwhelm them.

As we know, that vast majority of consumers are happy, not looking for the replacement, don’t like adapting to anything new, our only chance is to sell to Innovators and Early adopters who like change, who like to explore and who are actively looking for Innovative ideas.

Among the early adopters, we have to locate people who can be Sneezers, Opinion Leaders and Change Agents – Basically who can spread the idea, and influence people.

We must design a product that is

  • Remarkable enough to attract Early Adopters,
  • Having triggers in product to Motivate them to try it out,
  • Simple enough to use,
  • Rewarding enough to Engage the users,
  • Easier to Customise to make users invest more time, and
  • “Easier to communicate the Design Benefits to Others” by Early adopters.

Facebook initially targeted young people from Harvard and then IVY LEAGUE.

Boredom is a big factor in teens and young adults. People in this age bracket generally don’t have bills, jobs and all the stresses that go along with adulthood. So it’s easier to become bored and want to try something new and exciting.

Drug use by teens is often thought of as a way to escape the mundane world and enter an altered reality. Similarly, Facebook too is thought of as a way to escape boredom.


As I already mentioned, whatever product/service we envision, if we can connect them with an emotion and a daily routine, we can create an internal urge to use the product.

Nir Eyal, “Emotions, particularly negative ones, are powerful internal triggers and greatly influence our daily routines. A need to share good news can also be thought of as an attempt to find and maintain social connections”

To tap right emotions, we need to dig deeper to understand how the user feels, what emotions motivate them to use a product/service or do an activity or task and look for discrepancies which can expose opportunities. Example – Why people take photos? Why do they want to show it to their friends? etc…

It is important to connect tasks of a product or service with an Emotion and a Daily Routine.


In design, we were taught “Less is more” and look for simplified designs, have fewer activities for user etc… But Facebook’s principle is “More of More”. This principle helped more occasions for a user to use the product and drives more viral growth.

Facebook instead of focusing on one Big Innovation, has focused on many small innovations, which when added, provided a significant change in the value proposition to users.

“More of More” principle along with smaller innovations have helped Facebook to leapfrog its competitors MySpace and Friendster, even though the competitors had healthy growth rate and millions of users.

The more frequent we use the product, the more the addiction. As a designer, we need to Amplify the utility factors, simplify the “Ability”(Ease of use) factor, which in turn will increase the motivation required to use the product frequently.

BJ Fogg’s model says, when our product is new to the market, the user will have less motivation to use the product. So we need to design the product in such a way that the initial tasks are easier to do and Users can feel like trying. Once they started using, our product or service, activities should motivate them to explore further(Increase Motivation), which in turn can make users to explore slightly harder activities and the cycle can be continued till the desired state.


From WISDEN, The cricket stadium is a whirlwind of noise; a vortex of people; a kaleidoscope of blurring colors. There are horns, flags, drums, humans – it is the anarchy of sporting fandom.

Then, in the eye of this storm, in the middle of the pitch, stands Sachin Tendulkar.

In the words of the man himself, “it’s like you are completely cut off from the crowd, from the noise they are making. Your subconscious has taken over.”

“ZONE” is an affective state of calm equilibrium, where environment disappears, including the sense of One’s own self and body. Once in the Zone, Sachin never thinks about winning or becoming a Hero or Conquering the bowler but Plays to just Keep playing and Stay in Zone as long as possible.

Can you relate the “ZONE EFFECT” of drugs and facebook? When we start scrolling through our timeline feed, next thing we know an hour has gone by.

Designer’s job is to create a system which will keep the users in the zone for as long as possible, by creating an irresistible cognitive, emotional and sensory embrace.

Mihály Csíkszentmihályi calls “Being in a Zone” is a psychological and he calls it as “flow”.

His Flow theory postulates three conditions that have to be met to achieve a flow state:

  1. Clear set of goals and progress
  2. Clear and immediate feedback
  3. Good balance between the perceived challenges of the task at hand and their own perceived skills.

How to Create the “Zone” – To create Zone, we need to understand type of Rewards, Ways to make people invest time, effort etc.., Ways to help users to modify or re-invent our product/service, How to make usage of our product/service being visible to other users, non-customers and some other factors. Hopefully, we can throw more light on “Creating the ZONE” in detail in our Part 2 Blog.

Open to receive your feedback to help us learn more. If you feel it will be useful to some of your friends, startup people, please share with them. Thanks.

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