Your Product is as Strong as Its Weakest Links

Credits: This post was also published on Medium. The cost of strengthening the strengths is sometimes, ignoring the weakness. But, the price of weakness is sometimes your customer loyalty.

An interesting problem statement Twitter was trying to solve was — “How to display to its users, the most interesting part of an image on Twitter”. This would ensure high visibility to most likely areas of interest. The proposed solution, supported by research, was Smart Auto-Dropping of Images.

A brilliant feature indeed!

An image was analyzed to identify the area of likely user interest. Only this area of the image would be then cropped and displayed in users’ posts. It was decided that the “Saliency Prediction” method would be the best method to power this feature.

Credits: Twitter Engineering Blog

The new mechanism was released sometime in 2018. Everything was well and dandy, till, accusations of the algorithm being racially biased popped up in 2020.

While Twitter is investigating its Neural Network to discover the truth, it gets us to an important point from a Product perspective. Commonly, 80% use cases of our brilliant Products are happy scenarios. What this means is, if you want to book a car, you select the from-to addresses, click book, and your cab is booked. Or, I am traveling to a new location, I booked a car to take it up to the mountains. I sat in the car, started the navigation, and on my way I am! 20% of the use cases take the unhappy path, though. I am visiting a faraway, unknown, very suburban location, I can not, for the love of God, find mine from address. I cant book a cab. I am stuck. Or, The car I booked was very big, and the direction from Google Maps that I had been blindly following took me up the mountains but there is no way to reverse my car and get back. I am super scared and not to mention, pissed. As Product Managers, we tend to spend 80% of our focus on 80% of the happy scenarios. We design brilliant solutions to the problem, invest a lot of effort in A/B testing, focus group interviews, and whatnots. We are confident about these features. But the rest 20% get treated like that bonus marks, you can skip in the exams. We forget that sometimes the bonus marks close the gap between Pass and Fail.

To focus on Strengths is good; as long as your weaknesses are well-protected


Why is “the 20%” important in your Product?

The 20% sometimes becomes your Differentiator.

Today, in a world where competitive advantages are getting lost fast, everyone is moving in the same direction. Innovative features tend to get copied fast, differentiators rapidly becoming basics. How you handle your 20%, hence could differentiate your product.


Because most eyes are on the 80%. When the customer encounters the 20%, and you have handled it well, it does not go unappreciated.

The 20% hence becomes critical to generating user loyalty.

How do you handle the 20%?

The 80% is your bread and butter. But 20% deserve at least 40% of your attention.

Treat your 20 almost like your 80

When designing it, ensure you pay attention to the outcomes. The 20s deserve user validation as well.

You need to make sure that the outcome is acceptable and appreciable by the users.

How do you test your 20%?

Testing the effectiveness of your solution in 20% is sometimes, not as easy as your 80%. In my experience, users tend to sign off on the happy paths very soon, and what’s scarier, is on the corner cases even sooner.

Like you, the users also avoid giving the negative any thought. Till they reach it, that is.

To ensure that the observations and data you get are authentic, it’s imperative that you put users in the shoes that they will be when they face the 20%.

That means, make users feel like they are in their dreaded 20%. Make them feel what like they are stranded in an unknown suburb, unable to book a cab. Get them in the shoes of their probable self. Then validate the acceptance of your solutions.

Compelling Storytelling is an interesting, oft used mechanism to get users to wear the shoes you want.

Are there any other benefits of focusing on your 20%?

When you have mastered your 20%, you are confident that you know every nook and cranny of your product.

You have truly mastered the knowledge of your Product.

In the above-quoted case of Twitter, you would have liked to know if your algorithm is biased towards a particular outcome in any respect. Well, algorithms, are most-often biased towards one outcome than others. But being caught unaware is not a good idea for Product Managers.

Your Product is weakest at your 20%


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