But a product that you don’t deeply want to use yourself won’t have a soul. Most of the world’s great products were born of personal passion.
Build for yourself first. 4 reasons why:
So many bad products have been designed based on generic business plans or analyses of “unmet customer needs.” Yes, there are ways to get great customer signal but that is always one layer abstracted from yourself.
“Uber for handypeople” sounded great, but I was the wrong creator because it wasn’t for me.
In my experience, others will follow, reacting emotionally to the product’s singularity of vision.
On the other hand, when you build for other people, who knows if anyone will love it. 🤔
In any product, it’s easy to argue that most nonessential features are “nice to have” and therefore don’t need to get done. We’ve all used lowest-common-denominator generic boringware before.
They know intrinsically and clearly what things matter and what things don't… because they are building it for themselves.
You end up in drawn out discussions with dozens of people who can’t agree on what to do, and what ends up left are only the few features everyone agrees are essential.
A loving, passionate creating team adds bespoke workflows and efficiency tweaks that are not just 85% right… they are perfectly, 100% right. Because the people making it care. Selfishly.
Many of the details that make people feel emotionally attached to products—easter eggs, minigames, unique personality/language, etc.—work best when they reflect a genuine personality.
In every notification, it wished a celebrity happy birthday (like “Happy 249th birthday Napoleon Bonaparte!”)
I heard over and over that this tiny detail made people love using it. 🐛
On the other hand, teams building for abstract customers tend to only build the features market research says they need (a conversation in which personality never even comes up.)
Even more important, people identify themselves with products with personality—they spend outsized energy advocating for other people to use them.
It reflected the genuine personality of the team who made it… who were building it for themselves.
One of the challenging things about building for customers who are not you is that getting feedback is imprecise. There’s signal loss, no matter how much telemetry or feedback you collect.
Companies talk about “eating their own dogfood” but that is about HAVING to use something vs. WANTING DESPERATELY to use something.
Being your own customer means that the customer is always in the room.
First, many products can’t be made this way—too bad.
And yes, everyone knows you have to listen deeply to customers who aren’t you also… that is incredibly important because you WILL have blind spots.
This is how you make products with a soul, that people love and connect with. 💖