Understanding the Path of Value
The path of value is a term that has gained popularity in recent years, especially in the world of software product development. Essentially, it refers to the path that a user takes to get from point A (their starting point) to point B (the value they’re looking to get from your product). In other words, it’s the journey a customer takes through your product to achieve their desired outcome.
This path can be thought of as a series of steps or stages, with each stage representing a milestone on the journey towards the desired outcome. For example, if your product is a project management tool, the path of value might include steps such as creating a project, assigning tasks to team members, tracking progress, and ultimately completing the project on time and on budget.
The key to the path of value is to make it as short, smooth, and satisfying as possible for the user. This means focusing your engineering efforts on the parts of your product that provide the most value to your customers, and constantly iterating and improving on those parts to make the path to value even better.
Google Search and the Path of Value
One of the best examples of the path of value in action is Google search. From day one, Google’s main goal was to provide the most relevant search results to users as quickly and efficiently as possible. This was their path of value, and they focused all of their engineering resources on making it the best it could be.
But even a seemingly simple and straightforward product like Google search required constant iteration and improvement to provide the most value to users. Over the years, Google has added more and more features to the search experience, from autocomplete suggestions to voice search to personalized search results based on your browsing history.
Each of these features was added with the path of value in mind, with the goal of making the search experience faster, easier, and more satisfying for users. And even today, Google continues to iterate and improve on the search experience, with new features like the ability to search within apps and the introduction of Google Lens.
The lesson here is that even a product as successful as Google search requires constant attention and improvement to provide the most value to users. By focusing on the path of value and constantly iterating on it, Google has built a product that is indispensable to millions of people around the world.
Applying the Path of Value to Your Product
So how can you apply the path of value to your own software product? The key is to focus your engineering efforts on the parts of your product that provide the most value to your customers. This means identifying the main path of value through your product and constantly iterating and improving on it.
But what about other parts of the product, like the profile page or settings page? While these pages are certainly important, they are not on the main path of value, and therefore should receive very little engineering resources up front. This doesn’t mean you should ignore them completely – the UX should still be good – but it does mean that you should focus your initial engineering efforts on the parts of the product that provide the most value to customers.
Another important aspect of the path of value is adding playfulness and delight to the customer experience. This means adding small touches of fun and surprise to the main path of value to make the experience more enjoyable for users. For example, you might add a playful animation when a user completes a task, or display a message of congratulations when a project is completed (like Asana does with the unicorns!).