Who should define the product/feature requirements? Customers or …

Ask this question to a MBA grad and the typical answer you get to hear would be – It depends.
Depends on what? Well..lotsa factors..[and then starts the yada yada..regular BS].

So before I put forth my ideas, lets go back in time (4 years back) and answer the following questions:

  1. Does the world really need an online archive for URL bookmarks?
  2. Do you really feel the need for a new MP3 player, with no extra feature but just playing the mp3 files and maybe better navigation?
  3. What else would you like to do with your digital photographs, apart from uploading/sharing them in Y! photos?

And what could have been your reply?

  1. Bookmark for URL? Why do you need it?- Can’t you add favorite URLs to your browser? Why would you wanna share those with the world?
  2. Maybe storage space..and what else?
  3. Oh well – what else would you like to do with your photographs? Maybe printing? And?…Let me think!!

Well, the above features are of *milestone* applications like del.icio.us, iPod and Flickr – products which couldn’t have been thought of by the average user.

So what’s the point here? Should customers define the requirement?
Well, I say NO.
Because majority of the customers aren’t intelligent [if they are, why would Britney Spears top the most searched query in 2004/2005/2006?]. Forget about intelligence, majority are plain average guys and hence, you cannot really expect them to define a landscape changing product.

I agree that there should be customer engagement process (gathering feedback/focus group study etc.) but the responsibility of defining the features and coming out with creative solution should completely lie with the product team (to be more precise Product Managers).

And if one is really defining a damn sexy product, one should even bypass the customer feedback loop!!

Moreover, if customers/consumers define the product requirements – where is the WOW factor, the damn f**king cool factor?? The *haven’t-seen-it-before* look?

What do you guys think?

Those two words that create passionate users!

Look at the image on your right – Is that an onion?

Or something else?

You would be surprised to know that it’s actually a post-it pad, which won the Kokuoyo design prize award [More here].

Ain’t this product damn f**king cool?

Oh well, F**king cool – two words that you would want every user of your product to utter. And probably these two words differentiate great/sexy products from the good ones!!
And I am not talking about the usual web 2.0 products, but take the case of salesforce.com – one of the most fu**ing cool products in enterprise domain.
Kevin Briody nails this right

“What does “passion” boil down to? Where do you begin?..
F**king cool!”

That’s where passion begins. Those are the words I want every user of my product to utter. Ideally followed up by something like:

“Dude, you have to check this out. It’s so f**king cool!
I don’t want their reaction to be a measured, rational, dispassionate analysis of why the product is better than the alternatives, how the cost is more reasonable, feature set more complete, UI more AJAXified. I don’t want them to pause to analyze the boring feature comparison chart on the back of the box.

I want “f**king cool!” period.
I want that pure sense of wonder, that kid-at-airshow-seeing-an-F16-on-afterburners-rip-by-so-close-it-makes-your-soul-shake reaction, that caress-the-new-Blackberry-until-your-friends-start-to-question-your-sanity experience. I want an irrational level of sheer, unfiltered, borderline delusional joy.

That is where passion for a product starts. Yes, it only gets you so far, and then actual product quality, support, stickiness, strong community, etc come into play. But true passion begins with the two most wonderful words a marketer can hear a customer say:

“F**king cool!”

So all you startups and Product Managers – Don’t just be cool. Be f**king cool!

And my F**king cool moment? Well, ride in Royal Enfield Bulllet, Flickr, Gmail and Musicovery.
What’s yours?