@andrewchen

Get the newsletter · 2018 essays (PDF) · Featured · Recent

How do I balance user satisfaction versus virality?

Originally asked on Quora. If you find yourself mostly thinking about balancing satisfaction versus virality, you’re probably doing it wrong. The Quora question is a false dilemma, because it asks you to choose between satisfaction and virality, and then quantifying the tradeoff. Most of the time, if you’re working on naturally viral products, you spend most of your time elsewhere. The world of product decisions is more like:

That is, you have features in your product that either drive growth or don’t, and you have features in your product that either really help the value proposition, or don’t. These are actually pretty independent factors and you can build product features that hit each different quadrant. For example, if you are building a product like Skype, finding your friends and sending invites is clearly a high value prop, high virality action. After all, you can’t use Skype by yourself. But if you take the exact same feature, and try to bolt it onto a non-viral product like, say, a travel search engine, then you’re just creating spam. There’s really no great reason to “find friends” in a travel product, though it might be useful to share your itinerary. A feature that’s high-value in one product is spam in the other. And if you think about each quadrant, you get something like this: Let’s talk about each bucket:

  • Awesome features grow your product and also people love them. The Skype “find friends” feature is a great one, but so is Quora’s “share to Twitter” feature. After I write this post, I want people to comment and upvote, so something that lets me publish to my audience, which is both viral and part of the value prop is awesome.
  • Do it anyway features are just the core of your UX. Writing on walls on Facebook may not be inherently viral in themselves, but it’s important to the product experience, keeps people coming back, and indirectly helps drive the virality of the product. The more people you have coming back, the more changes you have for them to create content or invite people
  • Spam features are high virality actions that your users don’t really want to do, and don’t add to the product value prop. I think this is the bucket that the tradeoff lives of a question like, “should I be viral, or offer a great product?” If you are spending a lot of time in this quadrant, then you are shaky ground.
  • WTF needs no explanation

Ideally, you want to pick a proven product category that’s naturally viral and high-retention, for instance communication, publishing, payments, photos, etc. – and then spend as much time building awesome features that both drive growth and also make your users happy. Stay away from spam features as much as you can, or use them sparingly lest your product becomes spam.

PS. Get new updates/analysis on tech and startups

I write a high-quality, weekly newsletter covering what's happening in Silicon Valley, focused on startups, marketing, and mobile.

Views expressed in “content” (including posts, podcasts, videos) linked on this website or posted in social media and other platforms (collectively, “content distribution outlets”) are my own and are not the views of AH Capital Management, L.L.C. (“a16z”) or its respective affiliates. AH Capital Management is an investment adviser registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Registration as an investment adviser does not imply any special skill or training. The posts are not directed to any investors or potential investors, and do not constitute an offer to sell -- or a solicitation of an offer to buy -- any securities, and may not be used or relied upon in evaluating the merits of any investment.

The content should not be construed as or relied upon in any manner as investment, legal, tax, or other advice. You should consult your own advisers as to legal, business, tax, and other related matters concerning any investment. Any projections, estimates, forecasts, targets, prospects and/or opinions expressed in these materials are subject to change without notice and may differ or be contrary to opinions expressed by others. Any charts provided here are for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon when making any investment decision. Certain information contained in here has been obtained from third-party sources. While taken from sources believed to be reliable, I have not independently verified such information and makes no representations about the enduring accuracy of the information or its appropriateness for a given situation. The content speaks only as of the date indicated.

Under no circumstances should any posts or other information provided on this website -- or on associated content distribution outlets -- be construed as an offer soliciting the purchase or sale of any security or interest in any pooled investment vehicle sponsored, discussed, or mentioned by a16z personnel. Nor should it be construed as an offer to provide investment advisory services; an offer to invest in an a16z-managed pooled investment vehicle will be made separately and only by means of the confidential offering documents of the specific pooled investment vehicles -- which should be read in their entirety, and only to those who, among other requirements, meet certain qualifications under federal securities laws. Such investors, defined as accredited investors and qualified purchasers, are generally deemed capable of evaluating the merits and risks of prospective investments and financial matters. There can be no assurances that a16z’s investment objectives will be achieved or investment strategies will be successful. Any investment in a vehicle managed by a16z involves a high degree of risk including the risk that the entire amount invested is lost. Any investments or portfolio companies mentioned, referred to, or described are not representative of all investments in vehicles managed by a16z and there can be no assurance that the investments will be profitable or that other investments made in the future will have similar characteristics or results. A list of investments made by funds managed by a16z is available at https://a16z.com/investments/. Excluded from this list are investments for which the issuer has not provided permission for a16z to disclose publicly as well as unannounced investments in publicly traded digital assets. Past results of Andreessen Horowitz’s investments, pooled investment vehicles, or investment strategies are not necessarily indicative of future results. Please see https://a16z.com/disclosures for additional important information.