A metaphor matters

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old books v2

The great products have metaphors.  These metaphors act like a spine, which frame and guide the user through critical flows, and potently make these products easy to understand, explain and remember:

  • Apple created your ‘desktop’ on your computer screen, where you can move items into a ‘trash-can’ and ‘folders’
  • Pinterest has ‘boards’ you create, applying  ‘pins’ to them by the action of ‘pinning.’
  • Twitter has ‘steams,’ with a ‘tweets’ flowing down them; you can also ‘retweet’ these ‘tweets’
  • Facebook has ‘friends’ which you conned to in the act of ‘friending’ – you can also ‘like’ what your friend do
  • Dropbox has its ‘Dropbox,’ where you ‘drop’ items into a ‘box’, so you can store and share them

When these products attain global scale, their metaphor become part of the fabric of society, as a cultural meme.

When architecting a product, take a page from the great ones, and use a metaphor throughout.

Proprietary product

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Product Development


The Internet has fast become the world’s largest, most competitive and efficient marketplace.  As a consumer, it is blissfully efficient at surfing the right product at the best price.  Yet for a company, this means it is deadly fast at surfacing competition and the switching cost of your customer moving elsewhere if often close to zero.

In this network efficiency, the companies that will enjoy the most advantage are the ones that develop or aggregate proprietary product or services. Because such companies have something that cannot be (easily) found anywhere else, they will efficiently harvest demand for that unique good – often from all around the world.  This is a highly desirable and defensible position.  For example, SoundCloud has songs you can’t easily find anywhere else (e.g. Coldplay, Paradise remix), and as a result might outlast those who aggregate product which is more like a commodity on the Internet (e.g. ColdPlay Paradise radio edit).  Alternatively, your curation and user experience can be proprietary, but in this case demonstrative advantage is often harder to create and sustain.

Always compete with quality

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Picked up from the web / Ways of doing business

price & quality

Products and services typically either compete by offering lower price or higher quality.  Compete with quality.  Lower price offerings are often easier replicated, squeeze margins, and generally cause a race to the bottom.  Quality is harder to create but companies that lead with quality, especially proprietary quality, are more defensible as a result.  Over time their customers tend to love them more, too.