I’ve got a thing for creation. From the very beginning of my childhood to where we are right now, I’ve always been intrigued by creating something. Where things started with little woodworks and electric devices when I was young, soon this became digital products when I was heading into adulthood.
Creation requires creativity, persistence, and a vision. It can bring you down when you’re stuck, and it can make you feel euphoric when you made it work. It’s very much like life in general, as soon as you are in the flow things can go smooth and with an effortless feeling.
One thing not everyone is aware of, is the type of game you’re playing within the world of product building. Are you putting effort into a digital product which is only persuading consumers to buy more stuff? Or are the products you build making people’s lives better, organisations more efficient, or communities safer?
You see, although we are all developing digital products, whether you are a founder, designer, or developer, the meaning behind the products you create is something we should all be aware of.
Over the years of building a wide spectrum of digital products at Eli5, I realised there is a massive difference between the products you built when it comes down to the meaning behind it and the compounding effect or the lack thereof.
For example, let’s take a campaigning website for a shoe brand with the focus on selling more shoes. Although these type of projects do allow you to unleash a lot of creativity, of course with the sole purpose of making people consume more of the brand’s shoes, they are temporary and not really affecting people’s lives in a very positive way. This campaigning website will probably be online for a limited time and the only thing lasting is the award the website has won and the ecological footprint of producing those shoes.
In many aspects, these types of projects are a zero sum game. It’s the corner of digital product development where competition is fierce, resources are wasted on pitches, and creators are having their minds on awards, conversion rates, and other things to signal with. For agencies the margins are small and when they’ve delivered the product, they already need to start worrying about the next project.
“Suddenly we arrived in a world of collaboration with endless opportunities.”
By deciding to focus on building products which radically improve something and stepping away from the zero-sum game of continuous competition, pointless signalling, and empty buzzwords — we suddenly arrived in a world of collaboration with endless opportunities.
There is a huge demand for designers and engineers who develop digital solutions. Whether it’s a backend system which is running complex processes, or a client-side application for people to interact with these systems such as a mobile app, website, or desktop application, there is a ton of work to do. So why not focus on the type of projects which add value and opportunities to the world?
To give you an example of this, recently we have delivered a RegTech product for a global company. In this case it’s a web application (set up according this approach, in case you’re interested). This solution is decreasing the timespan of complying to regulations from twenty-four months to just six. Keeping in mind this product will be rolled out over the entire world, improving thousands of compliance experts’ way of working, the impact is incredible.
Just by building this solution, we created new opportunities for other products to be built on top of this RegTech product or connect with it, and by setting up a continuous feedback loop with the the product’s users we identified a huge list of potential features to make the product better.
Certain projects are just temporary while other projects are opening up endless opportunities. By making the decision to focus solely on the latter, eventually you will end up with more opportunities than you can handle.
There is nothing wrong with solely building products for clients. In fact, it's one of the best ways to gain a lot of experience and attain specific knowledge that can be leveraged to build your own products. However, the agency model is not a great business model and unless you truly enjoy every part of it, it's wise to avoid scaling an agency. There are benefits to remaining small by design. At a smaller scale, it's easier to make a profit, you are free to pick projects that bring specific knowledge and new opportunities, and handling your operations can still be done without it requiring too much of your attention.