Gibson Biddle came to give a product leadership talk at Google and one section really stuck with me. He mentioned how he came up with a simple statement that packs into it the role of product, while he was VP of Product at Netflix:

“Delight customers in margin-enhancing, hard to copy ways.”

– Gib

So short. So simple. Yet, much to unpack. For example:

  • Delight customers: The Kano model discusses the role of delight and how “Users don’t expect features that delight them. Consequently, if these features are not there, customers will not be dissatisfied. However, if they are present, they can easily have the biggest influence on the customers’ level of satisfaction.
  • Margin-enhancing: A ha. The business side that reminds us that we live in the real-world, and life isn’t solely about thinking through what the user wants….. as that won’t matter if you can’t survive or thrive, which is necessary to fund more delight. I now look out for the obvious bits here…. E.g. when you can’t just buy a book on the Kindle app on iOS. That restriction isn’t in place due to user-centric reasons.
  • Hard to copy: show me the moats!

I work on a developer platform, and a very open one at that, so I got to thinking about how a version of the statement would make sense for the Web Developer Ecosystem team, and came up with:

“Delight developers in ecosystem-enhancing, easy to copy ways”

– me

How does this unpack?

Delight developers

A platform needs to bring a supply of users to the table, for developers to have an opportunity to reach.

ASIDE: One of my kids asked me the good ole chicken and egg question, so I showed him:

And then for fun, I asked:

It was fun chatting through the birth of computing, and how the first users kinda were developers too, etc. It was also interesting thinking through various platforms and the stage at which third party developers were allowed on, and how it often depended on how valuable the host of the platform was as-is.

For example, the iPhone started first party, with Safari running the back catalog. The radio on the other hand….. I don’t remember it having any saved content that you could listen too if nothing was on the waves!

Anyway, back to delighting developers….. it’s important that we bring the meat of ROI (lowest cost to build your best experience for a large supply of users) but also the delight. Features such as this:

Value attracts, quality drives loyalty, and innovation differentiates.

Ecosystem Enhancing

Whatever we invest in should be enhancing the ecosystem. This means that we shouldn’t be thinking short-term. It means we should be thinking about the diversity in the ecosystem. One of the beauties of the Web is how anyone can make a home there. Grab a domain, and bob’s your uncle.

As a platform, yes you are a match maker of sorts (users and developers), but the long term aspect means that you aren’t just measuring hook ups, but family and societal growth that comes of the matches.

How do you notice weeds in an open ecosystem? You see silos that go over the top, and there are pure winners in verticals that stomp out competition. If you aren’t measuring and looking for the right things, it can look like engagement is going up and all is good…. when in fact the diversity is rotting away. We don’t want walls that keep people in and out, and even when we see people really enjoying a set of flowers, who knows how long that will last. Fashion’s change, and flowers can die out, so it is vital to not be all in on tulips.

In a healthy ecosystem, different parts interact in complex ways. You can mashup content, and someone can use an extension that makes something work better for them. The platform should be watching out for new patterns and work to bake them in so many can benefit.

Easy to copy

Rather than building first party competition that is zero sum game, we want to inspire the ecosystem and do so in a way that anyone can easily build on what we do.

We want to share building blocks, and help any sub communities throughout the stack. Open source enables us to not only share our own work in a well known way, but it also means we can participate and help other projects.

We see this in so many ways. From Chromium, to our guidance, libraries, and tools (DevTools, AMP, Lit, Lighthouse, workbox, you name it!), and with communities such as WordPress.

It’s incredibly fortunate that we can work in a way where we legitimately want sharing and copying, as we work together to garden the ecosystem, and make it the best destination to draw in more humans to play with us.

And thank you, Web community, for all of the creation and curation that you do.