Product designers: don’t be a gatekeeper, be just better

If we can’t make something that is better, we won’t do it

Apple designer Jony Ive

An easy way to keep your audience in or to grow and audience, is by being a gatekeeper. Of course that is attractive since the effort to get and keep your audience is relatively low, since people getting in is simple (there is just one way to use content: our product), getting out is really hard (since again: only your product allows access to the content).

I noticed that Spotify is doing this by forcing you to download their product before you can listen:

Spotify is probably great in a lot of things, and does a lot of things better than other products. However it doesn’t make listening to music better. Especially not by forcing installing the app before you can listen to a certain song. It is a typical method of a company in a relatively young market to grow market share: closing the gates and let nobody out and make sure that the only way to get access to content is via your product.

What might have been a more mature solution is by letting me listen to this song and then try to convert me to Spotify by offering something that my traditional music player doesn’t. For example:

Now Spotify lets me listen to the music and can give me a compelling reason to get their product: if I want to hear more music like this, or if I value erwblo’s music choice I can use Spotify to keep up to date to this by subscribing to erwblo.

It is not about making things only usable via your product, it is about giving people a compelling reason to use your product in the first place. It has to better, if it isn’t: don’t do it.

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