A matter of context

We all know that context matters in making products, but sometimes the effects of context can be subtle.

Dropbox is a ~10 billion dollar company.

For a long time I did not understand what made them tick. This product just helps me store files in the cloud, what’s the big deal?

I forgot about it and at the time I was living in a location which had slower internet speeds. Something like this:

Screen Shot 2018-11-29 at 16.53.09

At this speed, Dropbox makes no sense. I almost never used it.

Then I moved to a location with speeds closer to 60 Mbps. And now, Dropbox made a lot of sense. I wanted to use Dropbox. Suddenly, sheer quantity turned into a different quality of experience.

Sure, Dropbox has great engineering, design and business execution, but places which have low internet speed just won’t work for it. And if you live in those places, you would find it hard to grasp what makes Dropbox work, and you surely wouldn’t invent something like it.

When we look at products we ignore the context because many times we are in the context, and hence blind to it. But context determines which products get made and get adopted. That’s why when decoding a product, it helps to reflect on the context by asking the question,

What are the truths about the world in which this product was created or popularized?

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