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Apparent value vs. Discoverable value


By Saeed Khan

Not all features are created equal. Not all features are useful or evident upfront. The value we derive from products can be multi-layered or multi-faceted.

In his article – Come for X, Stay for Y – Braden Kowitz eloquently writes about the concepts of Apparent value and Discoverable value. He writes (using Gmail as an example):

  • Apparent value — This kind of value is easy to explain and gets users to sign up. It fixes a pain-point customers already experience. It’s typically better, faster, cheaper. In Gmail’s case, it was storage space.
  • Discoverable value — This kind of value appears when benefits are delayed or when a product requires users to develop new habits (which takes time). It also appears when many slight improvements combine to make a big difference in the experience. This kind of value is powerful because it keeps people around. For Gmail, this was search and conversation view.

When you think about your product or service, do you consciously thinking about how you deliver value in these ways? What are the immediate needs — BTW this is the stuff that is typically marketed — that are being addressed, vs. what are those needs that will be addressed later on through discovery.

As a non-high tech example, take a look at the picture of the bridge above. The Apparent value of the bridge is to enable people to safely cross the water without getting wet. But the Discoverable value is the view of the river you have once you are in the middle of the bridge. And you’d only discover that once you were half way across.

Read the whole article as Braden discusses several companies and products — such as Zynga and Apple — who understand this distinction and implement it well.


P.S. I prefer the term emergent value vs. discoverable value, but that’s just me.

P.P.S. There’s another value — hidden value — that you typically want to avoid when building products. 🙂

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