The Best "Products" Have Really Simple Strategies
There must be a gazillion websites out there on the internet, and subsequently thousands that aggregating or collecting the best stuff from it. The problem is, “product” offerings like Technorati, Plaxo life-streams, FriendFeeds, Digg, PopUrls, Design-Feeds, Design Float etc., all run information through you in a “river of news“. And like anything floating on a river, most of the time it just flows by you unnoticed, unless you have plenty of time to keep your eyes peeled on it.
Thus, when I discovered Alltop, it felt like a breath of fresh air or what I like to call a breath of fresh “online oxygen“.
What I like about Alltop was that it avoids getting into this “river of news” problem. While it essentially does nothing really different from the other sites mentioned above, i.e. it aggregates information, Alltop decided to step outside of the box and innovate by providing a product offering had different way in delivering the information. It is one of the few web products that is focused more on the reader than the person sharing or publishing the information.
This is sort of what the iPod and iTunes did for the Mp3 industry. In terms of components, the iPod is not much different from any other Mp3 player, but together with iTunes, it created a delivery experience others find hard to beat.
A good metaphor is that Alltop is an “online magazine rack” that displays the news from the top publications and blogs. Our goal is to satisfy the information needs of the 99% of Internet users who will never use an RSS feed reader or create a custom page. Think of it as “aggregation without the aggravation.”
When I first saw the site I liked it right away. But it was not until I read Guy’s announcement explaining that the site was supposed to be an “online magazine rack”, that I truly understood what it really aimed to do. What’s even better is that I use a RSS feed reader! So I believe, if they can even convert the RSS feed readers you have something good going on here.
We can draw many interesting parallels with this ideology to the product development situation we have today. We are surrounded by a “sea” of products, many of which are variations of the same thing. Similarly, the internet environment contains much of the same; blogs, social networks and aggregators that are more or less the same but only differentiated with superficial eye candy. And like physical products, all are trying to outdo each other for a consumer’s limited mental or monetary resources. It is the sites (or products) that really focus on the usability, innovation, and becoming “insanely useful” that makes difference.
Ultimately though, what I really appreciate is Guy’s use of a metaphor, or what he also calls a “Mantra”. This is just a simple strategic statement or plan that describes what this “thing” aims to do. Just like a any good business plan, great products also need good and clear Mantras or strategies to cut through the clutter and help keep us all on track. Try it and see how much quicker and faster getting to your design solutions will become. Remember only use one sentence and be as succinct as possible. This is not about creating a boring mission statement.
By the way, I’m also proud to be a citizen of Alltop, check me out in the design section: