Neapolitan Ice Cream of Product Types

By Dom Tancredi // CEO // Dom & Tom

I tell my clients there are three types of products that exist in our world of product development, and I call it the Neapolitan model. Yes, like the ice cream. It makes sense when you think about it — there are different flavors that play into different palettes, that are best for different occasions, and are enjoyed for different reasons. The same can be said of digital products, that have large  scopes, varying users, and, complicated workflows.

First, there’s your classic vanilla.

Simple, understated, and “tolerated” vanilla. Ice cream’s misunderstood older sister. The younger flavors get more attention because they’re popular and fun but who do you want babysitting your kids? Vanilla ice cream is the most well-liked and easy to eat.

When we talk about “vanilla” products, we’re talking about something that’s palatable and straightforward to tackle. Take your standard website — you’ll typically only see two to three main user personas on a project like this: the end buyer of the service or product, the applicant looking to there, and sales and marketing who are given the glorious job of creating content to appeal to both.

These kinds of projects are fairly straightforward in terms of design, the features and functionality are well-understood and rarely complicated, and the technology has been very well refined. They often take an average of 4-12 weeks to deliver and budget ranges under $100k to produce.

What makes a product “vanilla” is that there are only so many design constraints and components you’ll come across during the project. Let’s go back to the website example.

Yes, there may be blog posts and contact forms, but those would be considered “sprinkles” on your vanilla ice cream rather than additional “scoops”.

But what if we’re dealing with an eCommerce site and have to consider products, inventory, shipping, etc.? It might be heavy-handed with the sprinkles, and even have a hefty amount of scoops, but it’s still vanilla nonetheless in my book. 

Next, there’s chocolate.

People love chocolate ice cream because it’s rich and complex in flavor. And there are so many varieties (just like mobile apps, web apps, etc.) There’s dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, all with different sweetness and flavor notes. Chocolate can be complicated.

Developing chocolate products takes a lot more time, and requires investments of capital, ranging from $100k to $1 million. They’re more expensive because of their complexities and dependencies… like a platform with multiple, client-side applications interfacing with API’s and a full-featured admin panel on an orchestrated infrastructure, etc.

These systems will have multiple user personas managing different facets of the product — external customers, sales, marketing, technology, customer management, etc. You can even go crazy and add more adventurous toppings like push notifications, analytics, and data visualization / BI features.

Technologies do exist that make it easier to craft a chocolate product. However, creating very well-formed ice cream creations requires a depth and understanding of integrative components to deliver a satisfying product where all the favors work together.

What’s nice about chocolate is that its richness allows you to savor it for a long time, unlike vanilla which is more of a palette cleanser. With a chocolate product, you’ll see various and complex user engagements that extend over longer time periods and provide a satisfying experience to the user.

Finally, there’s strawberry.

Strawberry is the last flavor I leave in the tub. I do enjoy it while I’m eating it. The thing about strawberry ice cream is that it’s really sweet, so you don’t want to eat a lot of it all at once. It’s the little treat after the main meal, where you have a taste and say “Ok, I’m good now.”

Strawberry products are similar. They’re the emerging technologies that you just want to play with but don’t want too much of because you don’t quite know their value yet — they’re hypothesis statements (for us scientific methodologists) if you will.

We’re interested in them because they’re new, exciting, and very sugary. It could be an experiment with a wearable device, constructing a SmartContract for a blockchain, concepting an IoT experience with a kiosk application, integrating a chatbot or creating an Alexa voice skill, or whatever the “hot new thing” is. 

Once you know the value of certain strawberry products, you can move them into a chocolate experience. Take Amazon, for example. They’ve been experimenting for quite a while with the concept of drone delivery. Strawberry product. But now they’ve received FAA clearance to legitimately test it. Turning into Chocolate. 

Remember, regardless of the flavor of ice cream, your sundae isn’t complete without toppings!

Analytics, data visualization, third-party integrations, CRMs — they all make for a more delicious dessert.

Dom & Tom are experienced in developing all types of products, and can help you create your perfect sundae.

-Dom & Tom

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