There are different ways to define a successful product.
One with most the number of users, one with most happy users, with most usage, with most user interactions and so on. Here’s the funny thing – most product builders I believe, are not aware of what success for their product is. They constantly strive to increase the metric which is the most talked about in media and popular circles.
If the product is revenue generating then this is far easier, at least it should be. Just measure how much revenue you generated and you would know if you are doing better or worse off as compared to your previous performances/ competitors. Its far more diffcult to measure product performance if your product lives under layers of structural abstractions from the real market.
In such cases, defining product success is a challenge and opportunity in itself. I am sure this is a huge topic in itself and there are plenty of things that one can learn by simply being extremely empathetic to their users. I haven’t had any systematic approach to defining product success except my own intuition, which of course doesn’t help here, so I won’t delve into it further here.
However, I believe that if one can manage to avoid the top two or three classic mistakes that happen in new product development, they can build a reasonably aligned and relevant product for their audiences.
So what are those mistakes, the top one is to think about the solution before thinking hard about the problem itself. Think about this for a moment. How many times have you just gone crazy with coming up with an awesome, innovative solution to a problem that you think exists. I have at least on numerous occassions.
The problem with getting ahead of ourselves in finding a solution is not only that we end with a sub optimal solution but also that we tend to put our own unreal perceptions on the problem at hand. Its like building a better rain prediction software for farmers in developing countries. Not only are you building a solution that only tangentially even touches the real problem, but because of your commitment to this solution, you tend to think that the problem for these farmers is they don’t know how much and when its going to rain.