User Value Is The Core Competence, Said Father of WeChat

摘要: Why a product continues to thrive, while its rivals' products, with similar functions, ultimately fail? Zhang Xiaolong, commonly known as "the Father of WeChat", shared his thought on product design, KPI, user value in a recent speech.

(Chinese Version)

Another speech made by Zhang Xiaolong, commonly known as “the Father of WeChat”, became widely circulated in the Chinese internet world recently. During the speech “Be Aware of KPI and Red Tape”, Zhang highlighted the importance of “fast response” when developing new internet products, and encouraged people not to design internet products with too much consideration on KPI at first. Undoubtedly, users’ value still come in the first place for Zhang, even commercialization should be conducted without compromising users’ value.

Comparatively speaking, it is easier to design and develop an internet product, but rather difficult to keep it well in face of fierce competition and reach new high, since that often comes with a higher level of mindset and behavior pattern.

As a developer, if you attach priority to user value, then users will certainly feel they are valued in the long term, and vice versa.

In the speech, Zhang mentioned two very representative cases to demonstrate his point: QQ Mail and WeChat Red Envelop.

At first, Zhang admitted that as did many other product managers, he went through setbacks and frustrations. When he started working on QQ Mail in 2005, it was such a mess. At that time, QQ Mail wasn’t even one of the top ten e-mail service providers in China.

At first, Zhang and his team’s goal was to become the best. So they studied competitors’ products, as always, learn from them and even studied Hotmail’s developing methodology. However, as their products became more complicated, user experience sucked: QQ Mail was slow, and too complicated to use, but short of innovation. As a result, QQ Mail gradually lost its users.

He mentioned a very interesting phenomenon: many startups look good on numbers, but their products actually suck. Although they might have done a lot of things, none of that matters.

After the failure in the first year, they found a very easy solution soon. All they did was get rid of the complicated developing methodology in the past and set up a small team of ten members. They stopped blindly learning from other products and changed all the functions users didn’t like.

It occurred to me Conway’s law: Organizations which design systems [...] are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.

In other words, design systems of an organization are constrained by communication style and structure it adopts. The communication style an organization adopts will determine its design; the structure an organization adopts will determine its design system.

However, different communication styles and structures are needed in different fields. If you adopt a 2B communication structure but want to develop a 2C product, then the product you design will be rather complicated.

If you want to develop a light and trageted product, you will have too start from changing your communication style and structure. That’s who this works: As you sow, so shall you reap.

Many people used to think that they could develop a great product as long as they have a good product manager. However, this is not the case. Even if I am invited to help develop a product, it will still look like a reflection of the communication style and structure you adopt.

Therefore, it’s useless to develop a good product by finding a product design master. To do so, you will have to start from the very origin and adjust the communication style, structure and product value of your organization.

The second case Zhang mentioned is about WeChat Red Envelope. On the surface, WeChat won the battle with a proper game rule; underneath, however, WeChat won because of its attitudes between product and users. Although every company has KPI, it shouldn’t become a goal of any product developer.

For Zhang, a better KPI is merely a byproduct of a better product. As long as your product is great, your KPI will certainly look good. However, this doesn’t work the other way around. This is also the fundamental product value WeChat’s developing team adopted at first.

It is such simple product value that enables QQ Mail and WeChat’s developing team to develop a product that appeals to users better. Such simple product value even helps QQ Mail and WeChat gain an advantage.

However, it could very difficult to adopt such a simple product especially in a big startup, since you will have to do some very short-term functions in order to achieve a better KPI oftentimes. Zhang revealed that WeChat’s developing team never thought about achieving a better KPI when they designed WeChat Red Envelope. Instead, all they thought about was how to help users to snatch Red Envelope more effectively.

WeChat’s rival, however, thought more about KPI when developing its own similar function. That’s why its goal was to have more people snatch Red Envelope as many times as possible. Once your product design system is decided, the way your product will look like is almost certain.

Since WeChat thought more about users, it would do everything it could to make the function more interesting, instead of setting up lots of unnecessary game rules. It turned out that WeChat also received a better reputation among users than its rival.

Success doesn’t mean that you need to have a user base as large as WeChat. Real success means that users can feel that they are valued and respected. If so, then users will also willingy accept your commercialization effort.

A simple product value is the fundamental way to achieve long-term development. You might attract lots of users in the short term when you happened to meet users’ need. However, without a proper product value, you will still fail after a while.

Although there were already lots of other email products, QQ Mail managed to catch up. While QQ Mail caught up through its quick response system and recognition of users’ value, some products ultimately failed because their developing team cared more about KPI and getting a higher award during the annual meeting.

This is how the world works, but this is not all. Although management, capital and comprehensive strength are becoming increasingly important today, a great product will ultimately stand out.

Sometimes, you might as well get rid of your stereotype esteem, and return to simplicity. It’s difficult to do so, but it’s worth a try. At last, I want to pay distribute to all the people who stick to their product value.

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[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @BlueFox Note please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]

Translated by Levin Feng (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.

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