It is tempting to value digital product success by raw numbers. I would argue that digital products are not successes or failures based solely on the numbers, but the most qualitative metric of all: value delivered to the intended users.
I have just the example to prove it: Julius Caesar wrote the logical rules for the Julian calendar over 2,000 years ago and was so successful that the only major update it required took 1,500 years when Gregory XIII modified it into the Gregorian calendar. That's a long time to deliver value!
But value isn't just about longevity. It's also about cost. A product that requires constant maintenance and updates to remain viable isn't delivering as much value as one that can be left alone to do its job. And when it comes to digital products, minimizing the cost to maintain is crucial.
Take the example of the Unix operating system. Developed in the 1970s, Unix was designed to be modular, flexible, and easy to maintain. And it worked. Unix is still in use today, powering everything from supercomputers to smartphones. And while it has undergone updates and modifications over the years, the core principle remains the same: "do one thing, and do it well".
Compare that to a product like MySpace. At its peak, MySpace was one of the most popular social networking sites on the internet, with over 100 million users (also, it was one of my favorite websites of all time). Its design was not uniform since users could customize their pages and its user interface was more complicated than FaceBook. MySpace required constant updates and maintenance to remain competitive. Eventually users migrated to more user-friendly platforms, MySpace became a niche product, then fell into irrelevance.
So, when it comes to digital product success, it's not just about raw numbers or longevity. It's also about delivering value to users while minimizing the cost to maintain. By focusing on these qualitative metrics, digital product managers can guide their products to success that lasts.
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