A product can fail for a myriad of reasons.

Maybe there are pricing and cost issues, the timing is wrong, there is too much competition, there is no market need, or perhaps the user experience or quality of the product is poor.

It we were to zoom out for a second and look at the wider context, we can usually classify reasons for failure into just three categories, aka the 3 Success Factors.

The 3 Success Factors

So, what are the 3 success factors?

I hate to disappoint but this isn’t anything ground-breaking. You’ve likely heard of them before.

Product Viability: The product must make or save money for the business

Product Feasibility: The product must be buildable at a viable price, within budget and within a reasonable timeframe.

Product Desirability: There must be a market for the product. It must solve a problem, or it shouldn’t exist. And as we are talking about UX design here, the product must also create a positive feeling that makes a user want to use it again.

Why Viability and Feasibility Aren’t Enough

Similar to how just functional and visual design aren’t enough to ensure the success of a product as mentioned in the Introduction to UX Design article, product feasibility and viability alone aren’t enough either.

Despite the 3 success factors being common knowledge, many start-ups and small businesses overlook one of the, if not the, most fundamental reasons for success and failure: product desirability. In fact, the most common reason for product and business failure at 42% is due to no market need.

All too often it is shunned to the background or completely disregarded and assumptions like “This is a great idea. Of course there is a market for this” are made instead.

Or perhaps the founders are scared of finding out whether there really is demand for the product, hoping for the best having already dedicated so much time, energy and resources to their idea.

Product desirability isn’t decided by assumptions or blind hope, though. It’s decided by following the UX process. It’s decided by asking the right questions, finding the answers and designing the solution.

It is the UX designer’s job to ensure that the product is desirable.

Large Companies Aren’t Immune

It’s not just start-ups and small businesses that make this mistake. Even the largest companies aren’t immune.

In fact, looking at some of the biggest names is an even better illustration of just how important product desirability is.

These companies certainly don’t lack the resources. They can make the numbers work, are unlikely to run out of cash, have access to the best talent, are able to throw everything at marketing, and otherwise do not suffer from some of the other most common reasons for product failure. They have the knowledge and nous to ensure that the product is both viable and feasible.

But if you look at their product failures you will see that the only thing that many of them lacked was focus on one of the fundamentals: product desirability.

Microsoft released the Zune when the iPod already offered an unmatched user experience. Google released Google Plus when everyone was using Facebook and had no desire to switch. Nobody needed the Amazon Fire when there were so many other smartphones on the market that already fulfilled users’ needs. The same applies to Amazon Destinations, Facebook Deals, Amazon Local and Google Wave.

Conversely, think of any Microsoft, Amazon, Google or other major success story. The desirability of the product soon becomes apparent by how it solves a real problem.

3 Questions to Ask

There are only three questions to ask to discover if a product is desirable or not.

  • Is there a problem?
  • Is the product solving it?
  • Is the experience great?

In other words, is the product solving a problem in a way that isn’t just functional but also in a way that creates a great experience?

If not, it’s back to the drawing board.