Growth, Retention, and Traction
The metrics that signal developers to early adoption are fuzzy. In addition to low cost analytics tools, we can monitor web page heat maps that track activity for different content areas. While this can teach us which parts of a page draw the eyes of a large group of browsers it's less intimate then the tried and true method of Q&A. The alternative is my preferred approach: talk with folks who are generous enough to try out the software we build*. Web programmers have a good understanding of their own preferences and interests. For one we like hacking on new stuff (admittedly I'm a noob). But determining how a new application best translates into a sustainable market, takes more than hacking, it takes marketing intelligence, trial and error discovery, and copious truckloads of luck! When the stars align, and the market begins moving towards the hard earned tools you've crafted you've struck value gold.
Satisfy Existing Needs, or Conjure Novel Behavior
There's a couple of primary methods for growing an application to meet the needs of a consumer market.
- Concentrate on current behavior by providing utility that is both enjoyable and memorable (odd how those two aspects are separate). The target issue is either an existing challenge that is handled with a new technique, or a new resultant challenge (information overload). Either way the problem focus exists in the market already
- Create fresh opportunities by introducing new user behavior. This can be accomplished through a combination of game psychology and by offerring adjacent business value for adopting the behaviorial pattern (Foursquare deals for checking in). Startups that excel in fostering the spread of a social pattern (meme) can alter the foundations of the web ecosystem
Businesses can grow to leverage both methods to satisfy user and customer needs, but for starters it's a smart bet to focus on one or the other. The focus will empower you to trail blaze a bright future for your community that others are sure to follow.
* special thanks to Vladimir Vukicevic, Bostjan & Andraz, Shana Carp, Fred Wilson, Dave Pinsen, Mahendra Palsule, David Semeria, Jim Dwulit, Arnold Waldstein and Howard Lindzon for all their superb feedback, brilliant suggestions, and incredible support.
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