One of the greatest moments in the creation of Instagram was when the founders (Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger) discovered that its first idea to clone Foursquare (a location app) was not cutting it. Instead of people caring about location, they were interested in sharing photos. Just like that, the founded abandoned Burbn, the Foursquare-clone, and created Instagram which focuses on helping me to share photos.
Burbn was not, however, terribly successful. The app was too complicated, Sawyer points out, and had “a jumble of features that made it confusing.” Systrom, however, kept tweaking the app. He paid attention to how people were using it. He brought on another programmer, Mike Krieger; the pair used analytics to determine how, exactly, their customers were using Burbn. Their finding? People weren’t using Burbn’s check-in features at all. What they were using, though, were the app’s photo-sharing features. “They were posting and sharing photos like crazy,” Sawyer notes
Contrast that with Snap CEO Evan Spiegel who had a wonderful product in Snapchat but felt he knew what he wanted. He went on excursion and redesigned the product, pushing many out of his platform. Good enough, he has recovered: “The biggest mistake we made with our redesign was compromising our core product value of being the fastest way to communicate,” he wrote.
In a 15-page memo to employees, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel said his company is aiming for profitability next year and apologized for the much-criticized redesign of the Snapchat app. “The biggest mistake we made with our redesign was compromising our core product value of being the fastest way to communicate,” he wrote. (Fortune Newsletter)
In business, a product is for whatever customers use it for (legally) – forget what you have in mind. From suya joints to pineapple sellers across Nigeria, they have converted toothpicks into a quasi-wooden fork. You would be naïve to tell customers toothpicks are for toothpicks and not for eating pineapples or suya. The key is looking at your data to understand what customers really care for and how they are using your products. That way you can quickly pivot.