The products we love like Notion break the trade-off between simplicity and flexibility by creating low floor high ceiling products.
They're easy to start with. And only when needed, you can increase the complexity level. They are what we call "low floor, high ceiling" products.
The floor tells us how easy it is to get started with the task. Low floor = simple starting point. Everyone can get on board. A low floor is inviting!
Think of your favorite products that you love using on a daily or weekly basis. It could be finding a song with Shazam, or searching something on Google:
Notion's Getting Started page is another great example. Notion teaches new users the actions they'll need to access their product's core value with a functional checklist, that includes simple instructions like "Type "/" for slash commands."
Each of these products are world-class in providing users a low floor. But they'realso great examples of offering high ceilings.
Great products don't stop with low floor. They're powerful, they have high ceilings.
You can find artist venues on Shazam:
Google lets you find where to buy some cloth you see on a picture:
Though powerful, in this case Google doesn't get on the user's way. It's offering a suggestion if the user long press, and lets the user choose their own path.
Notion has 7 ways to edit a list view and its database behind.
Yet if you don't pay attention to them, your eyes are naturally looking at the table itself, not the filters. Again this is an elegant way to enable flexibility without getting into the way.
The risk with high ceiling
Product development has a natural bias toward pushing the ceiling higher.
That's because this is usually where the needs of the most valuable customer are. And where the highest amount of value may be extracted. This is one of the driving forces of disruption in the Innovator's Dilemma.
The risk with building high ceiling products from the get-go is that you're building a product for the experts only. A product that is harder to use and understand for the masses.
This is especially truth with data visualisation products. Traditionally these products were costly and limited to large businesses, with big resources. I mean check out the most successful BI tool in the world right now (Looker):
The risk with low floor
Lowering the floor has three main risks:
- First one is for your business: that you don't manage to pull it out. Lowering the floor is harder that it seems.
- Second one is that your users don't care. Some products aren't self-serve by nature, or lowering the floor won't make an impact. Buying an apartment is a good example. Would you invest the money of a lifetime into an apartment without visiting several and talking with a human?
- Third one, that you forget or struggle to increase the ceiling. Lowering the floor is a company culture. It's hard to change it!
🥵 What happened to us
The third risk of the low floor is what happened to us.
At June our vision is to give anyone a simple and delightful analytics. So we decided to start by lowering the floor. Over time we attracted more and more amazing customers which struggle to get started with analytics. And valued that.
Our company became centred around that. From our org chart, to our positioning, or even culture of the products we benchmark.
It became harder and harder to add more flexibility to the product, or scarier. No one really has managed to pull this out. To make an analytics product extremely simple and delightful, yet infinitely flexible.
Investors also mentioned that as an objection when we last raised money. This lead us to delay the moment where we would add flexibility to June.
Today we're finally addressing that challenge 🔥
We just introduced 3 major pieces of flexibility in June that increase the ceiling. And we've done that by following 3 rules:
- Clear happy path: we kept the path of least resistance clear for our users. Even though June can be customized to much more needs now, we kept a "clear one thing" that we're asking our users to do.
- Conditional Visibility: we're using conditional visibility to reveal next steps only when needed. This prevents overwhelming users, and allows users to focus only on what is relevant at the time.
- Progressive Exploration: Once a user feels confident in their ability to get results from the primary path to value, they'll naturally explore the product to see what other value they can find.
In total, it took us 2 years to significantly increase the ceiling of June. But we're excited we're getting there.
We hope this gives you more air! 💜