Applying the Kano Model Framework: A ClipDish Case Study

  • 14 Dec, 2023

In past articles on prioritization frameworks, I’ve discussed the importance of prioritizing features based on business impact. However, focusing solely on business impact might result in a product that’s great for the business but terrible for users. And yes, those pesky users do matter. Fortunately, there’s a framework (because there’s always a framework) designed to help you view things through the lens of what a user truly needs.

Enter the Kano Model, conceived by Professor Noriaki Kano, which is the perfect tool for categorizing features based on their impact on customer satisfaction.

This article will delve into the practical application of the Kano Model through the lens of ClipDish, a mobile recipe application, offering insights that I hope you’ll find valuable for your products.

What is the Kano Model?

Developed by Professor Noriaki Kano, the Kano Model is a user satisfaction theory that’s highly effective in product development and user experience design. It categorizes features based on their influence on customer satisfaction into:

  • Basic Needs (Must-Be Quality): Essential features that users expect by default. Their absence causes dissatisfaction, but their presence doesn’t significantly increase satisfaction.
  • Performance Needs (One-Dimensional Quality): Features where satisfaction is directly proportional to performance. The better these features are executed, the higher the user satisfaction.
  • Excitement Needs (Attractive Quality): Unexpected features that can significantly enhance user satisfaction and delight, offering a competitive edge.
  • Indifferent Features: Aspects that have minimal impact on satisfaction, regardless of their presence or performance.
  • Reverse Features: Elements that could lead to dissatisfaction if included, often due to user preferences or market trends.

Basic Needs (Must-Be Quality)

When my partner and I first designed ClipDish, we focused on the core mechanics or Basic Needs of the application.

For our app, it was seamless recipe import from users’ favorite websites. That, plus an intuitive interface, are non-negotiable. These foundational aspects, while not boosting satisfaction when executed well, can lead to user dissatisfaction if we get them wrong.

When you’re thinking about prioritizing for your initial release, you’ll spend most of your time in this zone of the Kano Model.

Performance Needs (One-Dimensional Quality)

These features have a linear relationship with user happiness. For ClipDish, enhancing the speed and accuracy of recipe parsing is crucial. Furthermore, integrating features like grocery list generation can give ClipDish a competitive edge, as users often compare these aspects with other apps in the market.

Excitement Needs (Attractive Quality)

Unique features that can set ClipDish apart include an innovative meal planning calendar, AI-driven sous chef, and sharing functionalities. These features, unexpected yet highly rewarding, create memorable user experiences and can serve as powerful marketing tools.

While not all these features are in our app yet, this model guides us on how to prioritize future features.

Indifferent Features

Some features, like customizable app themes or icons, may not significantly sway user decisions. While they add aesthetic value, their influence on user satisfaction is relatively marginal.

Reverse Features

Certain features, if implemented, could lead to user dissatisfaction. One area we continue to focus on is the signup and onboarding process. The time it takes for users to get from launch to their first clipped recipe is crucial for adoption. We aim to strike a balance between being informative and not introducing friction.

Applying the Kano Model to ClipDish Development

By strategically employing the Kano Model, my development partner and I can effectively prioritize feature rollout.

This is a multi-step process.

Deploying the Kano Model as a Product Manager involves a strategic and user-centric approach to feature prioritization, focusing on enhancing customer satisfaction and competitive edge. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Step 1: Gather Feature List

We already have a feature list in our backlog that we can use for the basis of this exercise.

If you don’t already have a fleshed out backlog begin by brainstorming with your team to list all potential features and improvements for your product. Include ideas from various sources, such as customer feedback, competitor analysis, team suggestions, and innovation sessions.

Step 2: Conduct Kano Surveys

Typically, a Kano survey asks two questions per feature: one to gauge if the feature would cause satisfaction if present (functional question) and another to understand if its absence would cause dissatisfaction (dysfunctional question). This example shows a survey based on the ClipDish backlog.

Q: Below are a list of product features, please indicate how you would feel if these features were included in ClipDish.

Feature I like it I expect it I am neutral I can tolerate it I dislike it
Editing the recipe description
Making recipes available to Spotlight search
Offering a free trial
Recipe prep checklist
Filtering recipes by cuisine
Scanning paper recipes into the app
Printing recipes
Smart sorting ingredients

Q: Below are a list of product features, please indicate how you would feel if these features were NOT included in ClipDish.

Feature I like it I expect it I am neutral I can tolerate it I dislike it
Editing the recipe description
Making recipes available to Spotlight search
Offering a free trial
Recipe prep checklist
Filtering recipes by cuisine
Scanning paper recipes into the app
Printing recipes
Smart sorting ingredients
This structure allows respondents to indicate their level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction for each feature being included or excluded, respectively. The answers they choose will help you categorize each feature according to the Kano model: Must-be, One-dimensional, Attractive, Indifferent, or Reverse.

Step 3: Analyze Survey Results

  • Categorize Features: Use the responses to categorize each feature into one of the Kano Model categories: Basic Needs, Performance Needs, Excitement Needs, Indifferent Features, and Reverse Features.
  • Identify Trends: Look for patterns in the data to understand which features are most likely to impact user satisfaction.

Step 4: Prioritize Features

  • Evaluate Business Impact: Consider the business impact, development cost, and effort required for each feature in addition to the Kano analysis. This helps in balancing user satisfaction with business viability.
  • Create a Priority Matrix: Use the Kano categories along with business impact and effort to create a priority matrix. This matrix will guide you in deciding which features to develop first.

Step 5: Validate with Prototyping

  • Develop Prototypes: For high-priority features, especially those categorized as Excitement Needs, create prototypes or minimum viable products (MVPs) to validate assumptions and gauge real user reactions.
  • Gather Feedback: Test these prototypes with users to collect feedback, observing if the anticipated satisfaction levels align with real user experiences.

Step 6: Iterate Based on Feedback

  • Adjust Prioritization: Use the feedback from testing to re-evaluate and possibly re-categorize features. Some features may move between categories as you gain a deeper understanding of user needs.
  • Plan Development: Finalize the feature development plan based on revised priorities, ensuring alignment with user expectations and business goals.

Step 7: Implement and Monitor

  • Develop and Release: Work with your development team to implement the prioritized features, following agile methodologies for flexibility and continuous improvement.
  • Monitor Impact: After release, monitor user satisfaction, engagement, and feedback to assess the impact of the new features. Use this data to further refine your product roadmap.

Continuous Improvement

The Kano Model is not a one-time activity but part of an ongoing process of understanding and adapting to user needs. Regularly revisit and reassess your features against the Kano categories as user expectations evolve and new competitors enter the market. This iterative process ensures your product remains relevant, satisfying, and ahead of the curve.


The Kano Model offers a structured, insightful framework for evaluating and prioritizing features in app development. By focusing on what users expect, appreciate, and are delighted by, ClipDish is poised to enhance user satisfaction, foster loyalty, and carve out a niche in the competitive app market. Complementing other strategic frameworks like the RICE model and Value-Effort Ratio, the Kano Model is an indispensable tool for any product manager looking to make informed, impact-driven decisions.

Call to Action

I’m eager to hear about your experiences with the Kano Model or other prioritization frameworks. Join the mailing list so we can discuss how these tools can revolutionize product management strategies.

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