Problems and Nuisances

Identifying the user issues worth solving is very crucial but often ignored

In the course of my study on product management, I've identified two categories of user issues: Problems and Nuisances.

Problems are difficulties that affect the user so much, they are willing to spend time and money to solve them.

Nuisances feel like problems at the moment but are quickly ignored or forgotten.

Let's take an example:

My mobile hangs almost once every month and needs a restart. If somebody asks me about this, I would rave for half an hour about how terrible my phone is. If they ask me if I would buy their hang-free phone, I would instinctively say yes!

But will I? No! Because it's a nuisance that seems important in that moment. I'm totally fine with my phone the rest of time.

This misidentification of nuisances as problems seems to plague non-tech companies the most. A laundry list of features is made and the development outsourced to a vendor, with negligible or zero user surveys or demand identification. Most of these features are often obscure and unused.

But don't throw away the nuisances yet! In many cases, nuisances solved with 10X efficiency have a potential niche market for themselves. These markets rarely overlap with the original markets.

A clock that slows down every month by five minutes? Nuisance. A clock that doesn't slow down for decades or centuries? Atomic clock (with important scientific applications).

A browser that slows down when using dozens of tabs? nuisance. Most people rarely use dozens of tabs simultaneously. But a browser that solves this problem 10X using data centers? Mighty App. A niche market with an entirely different userbase.

Can you think of any more examples that prove (or disprove) this distinction?

TL;DR: Solve problems. Unless you can solve the nuisance 10X better. Then do that!

  • Talking to Humans
  • The Mom Test

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