Is there such a thing as a dumb user?
It’s been many years since the term MVP (minimum viable product) took the Product Management World by storm. Essentially a development technique, MVP is a process in which a new product houses just enough features to meet a customer need. The finer details are only added once early users of the product provide feedback. The basic premise of an MVP is that there is no need to fully flesh out the design – a rough version of the solution is enough to run an initial test. But how crude should this version be, given the current technological landscape? Let’s find out.
Well, it’s 2020. There are children aged 2 who can’t string a 4-word sentence together but can operate YouTube like pros. My parents, who spent most of their lives in the pre-smartphone era, today, are successful Candy Crush players. Technology is no longer a mere part of our lives – it is what our lives need to exist. And with this dependence comes the ability to effortlessly perform tasks that were not part of our reality just a decade ago. What does this mean for innovators? For starters, the idea that a new solution just needs to have a minimum layer of aesthetics and ease of use in the testing stage is outdated. The average user, today, knows what a good experience should feel like and assumes it is their birthright. Gone are the days when low quality images were enough to let Airbnb enter the home rental space. Now, you don’t just have the be the best solution, you have to look the best, feel the best and offer the best value. There’s no such thing as a dumb user, because there's always something better waiting to replace you.
In the product world, this means that when we go to market to test, the coveted MINIMUM viable product or MVP, is no longer governed by past standards of minimum viability. The bar for what’s expected out of a beta launch has risen tremendously thereby indicating that the final product cannot be anything short of magnificent. This surge in user expectations has caused several copycats to mushroom that offer incremental benefits over previous solutions. Need a ride? Book an OLA. Not happy with the price? Move to Uber. Driver's rating isn't ideal? Cancel the trip and book another. Too long a wait? Try UberPOOL. There is no dearth of options for the consumer and this has not only made competition fiercer, but also compelled users to be more aware of what’s available. Once again, you can't take the average Joe for a ride (pun intended).
While this shift may seem utopian, it is also cause to wonder how we reached here. This user-driven world did not materialize overnight. It started with Apple’s revolutionary approach to making things usable, then moved on to Amazon’s unwavering drive to make everything available and now rests on the shoulders of Facebook to deliver what we want even before we’ve realized we want it. And in the bid to be the next viral phenomenon businesses are doing whatever it takes to get into our phones and thereby, our lives. They are devising innovative ways to get information on us and influence our behavior, often without our knowledge. There is a famous adage in Silicon Valley – if you’re not paying for the product, you ARE the product. This loosely translates to the idea that nothing comes free. You’re either paying for it with money or your data. Either way, there IS an exchange happening between the business and you, whether you realize it or not. Wait, does that mean there ARE dumb users? Not if we act fast.
As consumers, we're being given infinite options, a seamless experience, free services and unlimited networking ability – but at what cost? Are we reading the T&Cs* that come with it? Do we know what the trade-off is when we sign up for a new service? Are we making mindful decisions about our digital footprint or are our online selves not as prized as our physical ones? As we step into a whole new world of data transfer, where every click, every scroll is carefully monitored, I suggest we start paying attention to these details. It’s 2020, there is no such a thing as a dumb user. But it’s also getting more and more difficult to stay smart.