Usage is more important than design.
Usage is more important than architecture.
Usage is more important than marketing.
Usage is the only thing that matters.
A product dies from a lack of clarity, not for a lack of effort.
When I started building products, I started from the same blue sky mentality that plagues most entrepreneurs: we can build everything under the sun, instantly.
Resource scarcity always brings it back down to earth. In the real world, hard decisions have to be made on what projects should be funded and what will be left for another day.
How a team decides what to work determines a company’s life or death. Increasing usage should be the focus and the primary reason a project gets worked on.
The argument for framing all resource allocation under the lens of increasing usage is:
- Without users, no one see your visual design.
- Without users, no one will utilize your new feature.
- Without users, there is no traffic for ops to manage.
- Without users, there is no need for an API.
Usage is the currency for the life of a product. Increasing usage allows a team to continue to invest and grow. The above argument holds that a team should first invest in projects that move the needle. Anything that falls outside this paradigm is done when you have the time.
Focusing resources first on increasing usage does not mean design, infrastructure, operations, marketing, sales, etc are not important or should not be resourced. For example, your infrastructure needs to support the ability for a quick iteration cycle to improve usage. Down-time translates into zero active users.
Most product teams build feature after feature without going back and supporting the basics of what made the product successful in the first place. The most important point for a user is the pre-conversion experience (the visitor experience); however, these pages and product flows are often considered “boring” and “old news” by engineers, designers, and product managers. Despite the lack of enthusiasm, these projects tend to have the highest ROI.
All projects should be framed with the question, “How much will this increase usage?”. Usage should be translated into a metric, such as “number of new users” or “improving session length”.
Be very firm on quantifying the phrase ”moving the needle”. Predict what number will move and why. Compare the time horizon of each project and when you will see results. The longer you wait, the more users you are losing.
The primary motivating factor of everything you do should be to increase usage. If usage is low, you are doing the world a disservice. You are short-changing the world on the value you deliver.