“So many customer requests, so many features to build.” We all feel the pressure to build a do-it-all product, which caters to every customer need.
Earlier in my career, we were building a timing and scoring product for the endurance event industry. Customers would often ask us to add features that would make the product more conducive to their workflow. We were more than happy to oblige.
“The more you offer, the wider the audience, the easier the sale,” we thought. “Customers have preferences, we should cover them all.”
This thinking can destroy the product.
Adding a smorgasbord of features made us feel good and made the customers momentarily happy. But in reality, we were losing a battle to runaway complexity. Lots of these elite athlete and large race timer features made the system harder to use for the rest. We were building a product based on the voice of the 1% of the most vocal customers and the urge to satisfy all. We didn’t define and stand firm on our positioning. This complexity would soon stall adaption, because a product that accommodates all, serves none.
Usually, people gravitate towards choice and control over their decisions and life. But optionality quickly becomes overwhelming and thus we succumb to what behavioral scientists coined as “The paradox of choice”. More choice attracts people, less choice generates more action. If you want more window shoppers, offer an overwhelming choice of features; If you want more customers, do the hard work of understanding the struggles and positioning your product around them. There are no shortcuts.
Best products have identities and integrate around a set of related struggles. They show a map at a specific resolution. It’s less about whether a feature can be implemented, and more about how it composes with the rest of the system. The full experience is what differentiates products.
If you want to learn more about how to design products to solve problems and attract customers, start here:
- Know your customers’ “Jobs to Be done”
- Competing with Luck - This article by Ryan Singer (and really anything he publishes on his blog). Ryan is awesome at clearly defining vocabulary to talk about product development. I borrow his words all the time.
- Listen to some interviews
- Escaping the Build Trap by Melissa Perri
- Running Lean by Ash Maurya
I want to thank Ellen Fishbein for helping me edit this article. I made a decision to hire a writing coach as part of my urge to become a better writer. Ellen has been a fantastic choice. Please consider her if you’re looking for a coach/editor.