Forgotten Products

by Krishna on July 10, 2009

I was reading Ryan's post on WolframAlpha when I realized that this was the first time in weeks that I have thought about WolframAlpha. There was a big burst of PR during its release  — the mainstream media, the technology blogs and so on. After that, I never heard anything about it. Of course, the recent search engine news has all been about Bing. Maybe that is one reason.

For software practitioners like you and me, we focus too much on the software part of the product lifecycle — the architecture, design, coding and testing. But there is a whole another world out there, where you have to get real users to like and use your product. Otherwise, it will end up unused and finally discarded.

However useful the product is to end users, you have to invest significant amount of time in marketing. And the term “marketing” is not as simple as it sounds. It is not about a big TV spot or full-page newspaper ad. It is informing, attracting and keeping users through many channels, including the fore-mentioned TV and newspapers, but also through building references, communities, and partnerships.

Product improvement is also a huge part of the marketing process. If you start with a few users, how do you maintain their interest and keep them coming back? How do you improve the conversion rate of users who visit your website and do not sign up? How do you cater to users who are looking for more?

So, there is no endpoint for the development effort. You can create a plan for development and complete the features. But the story doesn’t end there, because you have to continue to put the effort, even if it is simply to upgrade and scale the application. This means you have to produce on a regular basis. If you opt for a big-bang approach of finishing a ton of features, users will simply leave you behind.

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