The reign of email:
Consumers understand digital products using ‘metaphors’ – an important construct in product design. The desktop that we know from windows was the digital equivalent of a physical desk top. Files and folders also have real world equivalents. Millennials might find this amusing – physical files, really ?
Email was the digital equivalent of mail(called snail-mail now). Email reigned for a long time as the de facto digital communication standard for workplace.
There were a lot of email-killers. Remember google wave? Couldn’t understand it then and can’t understand it now! Anyhow, none of the email-killers really killed email.
As a parallel thread, short messages and chats – continuous conversation threads of short messages – became popular. To such an extent that now we have chat apps with user base nearing a billion.
Fast forward to now:
The late millennial & Gen Z cohort who are ready to join workforce grew up spending their entire childhood and adulthood sharing stuff in Whatsapp, Snapchat and other messaging platforms in the all-pervasive wifi enabled mobile world.
For an engineering team made of such short message addicts, email was too old and bureaucratic.
Create an option for user-groups that can communicate in channels through short messages with emojis and gifs. Make it easy to share code snippets and other files. Make the messages searchable. Enable integrations with code repositories and give hooks for engineers to monitor their applications and watch out for alerts. Add a bot platform. Give powerful API-s and encourage integrations with other complementary products.Finally, give a brilliant user interface and visual design to make them feel like they are spending time in their favourite social network.
And you get a revolutionary product that is an email killer (for intra team emails) & the fastest growing workplace application. It is indeed a product & marketing masterpiece.
In hindsight, it is easy to analyse the success of a product. The real challenge is thinking from the perspective of the makers and predicting what they will do next. In fact it is a good exercise to sharpen your product sense. Will attempt this in another post.
Also published on Medium.