The Kano Model is a framework for identifying the most important features when creating a product, based on the level of satisfaction they’re expected to bring to users.
Measuring and prioritizing key features via user satisfaction allows product teams to allocate suitable resources and time to the development of a product’s most valuable assets. The Kano Model involves organizing customer preferences across five groups, and helping teams to view products from the users’ point of view.
The Kano Model incorporates basic and advanced product features. By using the Kano Model, teams can create products which not only fulfil users’ needs, but provide lasting value over time.
This, in turn, can mark the difference between an okay product with moderate sales, and a truly exceptional product that leads a market.
The Kano Model was first created by Professor Noriaki Kano in 1984. He was a professor at the Tokyo University of Science, specializing in quality management.
Professor Kano was inspired to develop the model when conducting research into the range of factors determining how products satisfy customers and keep them loyal.
Essentially, Professor Kano created a framework by measuring features via their ability to satisfy or delight users. Responses to both measures will align with one of Professor Kano’s five prioritization categories.
Product teams employing the Kano Model in the development of a new product, or the upgrading of an existing one, organize features into the following five categories:
Features falling into this group are those which customers expect across all products of its type. They’re essential for the product’s basic function, and while they’re not particularly likely to delight users, satisfaction levels could drop significantly if said features were missing from a product’s design.
These features demonstrate a product team’s commitment to greater functionality versus the basic suite. They add to the overall experience and can help one product gain a slight competitive edge over another, though it’s unlikely to be a deal-breaker.
Features in this category can make a significant difference to a customer’s purchase decision and a user’s satisfaction. Excitement attributes/delighters have the power to give a product a greater edge and stand out from rival releases.
They can encourage a user to become, and stay, loyal to a brand over a number of years, even as subsequent products’ quality may decrease. ‘Delighters’ can turn users into brand advocates and encourage them to share positive feedback online, driving new customers to try the product.
Any feature considered ‘indifferent’ makes neither an explicitly positive or negative impact on users. They may struggle to decide whether the feature’s presence increases or decreases their satisfaction levels.
Features within this category actively dissatisfy users and should be left out of the product altogether. They can cause users to become frustrated by a product and even consider alternatives if there are enough of them present.
Placing features into any of these categories allows product teams to determine which are the most important in a product’s development — and which can be dropped altogether.
But it shouldn’t come down to the product team’s opinion alone.
Product teams should also gather data from user research. They might compose a survey tailored to each of the features utilized in a product, and invite users within the target demographic(s) to share their thoughts on the features’ function.
Teams can demonstrate the features in a number of ways. An interactive wireframe or a more sophisticated prototype may be viable, though it’s crucial to avoid spending too much time on any demo model. The key goal is to convey the feature’s function and how it helps users achieve their goals.
The surveys should identify how helpful users find each feature and how would they feel if it were left in or out of the final product. It’s vital that participants fall within the target audience only, to ensure the most accurate, valuable feedback.
Standard responses included in Kano Model surveys ascertain whether a user ‘liked’ a feature, ‘expected’ it, feels ‘neutral’, ‘tolerates’ it, or ‘dislikes’ it. Product teams can analyze the variety of responses and determine which features are most likely to satisfy customers when bringing the product to market.
Theoretically, product teams can utilize the Kano Model when developing any product. However, it tends to prove most beneficial to those teams working to tight deadlines and with limited resources. There’s no time to waste in such scenarios: every hour and every dollar matters. Investing either into features which will end up dissatisfying users, or even chasing them away to a competitor, is a huge waste.
The Kano Model can also be a fantastic help for teams working on a certain type of product for the first time, or those with little experience overall. Designed to provide valuable guidance, highlighting which features must be included in the build and why, the Kano Model helps prioritization feel like a natural process.
Finally, the Kano Model can benefit teams looking to release an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) to the market as soon as possible. They can continue their research and add other satisfiers or delighters down the line.