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Maslow’s Hierarchy for developing products

When you are developing software products (or any product, for that matter) you always start with listing our requirements. This is what matters the most to users and inherently we understand this. So

Physiological needs = Product functionality.

If you are operating in a market where there is no other alternative to your product in terms of functionality, users will be ready to use the product even if it does not offer an other compelling reason.

Say you want to dig a hole and these are the three products available in your market.

Even if the shovel available is a small basic one you would still go for it.

Now imagine if the shovel market were to change to something like this:

This is where it gets more complicated and Maslow’s other levels come into play.

After functionality in the product hierarchy, people look at trust and stability. So a strong shovel with good quality is the next thing they would look for.

Safety = Trust and Stability

However if you think after this the next leap would be to look for more functionality, you would be mistaken. This is why something like a Power Shovel is not not used much. There is no social validation.

The next level a product needs to achieve is social validation.

Belonging = Social Validation

Once you have social validation you can add on other factors like the experience (a power shovel will work at this stage) and other user experience features. This is where design comes in.

Esteem = Experience

Finally comes the self actualisation, and this is where the user actually becomes better as a result of using the product. I don’t have an example for this in the Shovel market, but a product like a Mac or Nike Shoes fit this level of product evolution. Thus:

Actualisation = Pride

This is how Maslow’s hierarchy of needs works in product development.

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