"I'm Not Convinced We Know Anything"

Of Product Development

Over the past two weeks I’ve been lost in code working all day sometimes up to 6AM in the morning. It’s been a while since I’ve been in the zone – that state where you have a concept in your mind and you can’t help yourself focus all your mental energy into seeing it through. And nothing can distract you, even when you are not it you think about it.

One important thing I learned a few months ago in my time as a Code4Kenya developer is that it’s not enough to create a product with cool features. Programmers are usually trying to push their products further and further extending the features, updating it to current technologies and basically trying to make it awesome. Something we often forget however is to focus on usability. Instead of making it more readily usable to the end user we push for the ‘wow’ factor. Unfortunately that only impresses our programmer buddies but the targeted user will only be impressed if it makes their lives easier. But if they have to get a user manual to make use of the product they develop cold feet probably look for alternative even with less ‘wow’ as long they do what they want in a way that makes practical sense to them.

I was reminded of this yesterday when I was doing a write up of the product for a business plan and I realized that some of the wow features that kept me up all night are actually very petty and I can’t even write them as part of the product description no matter how cool it sounds in my programmer head.

In the end you want to be able to describe what your product does in a very simple sentence. Also you want to make sure it does it do what it claims to do. And it does it well. Is it bugged, or smooth? Is it tested in different environments? Therefore you must spend less time coding and more time planning, testing and debugging. Start small with a basic version of the product that is stable and has a clean and easily understandable UI(user interface).

It’s very easy to push debugging and UI clean up to the end after chasing the ‘wow’ features. But if the product gets out there with bugs that could have been avoided it might end very underwhelming considering the amount of work that had been put in even if the bugs are fixed later. Thing is when you introduce a new solution to the market, people are skeptic. They subconsciously wonder if it actually makes sense, especially if the solution is introducing a new way of doing things. Trust me even the tech savvy people are very conservative deep down. That’s how Google Buzz failed and people recoiled back to their Facebook dens.

In a nutshell, keep it simple, make it stable, ensure it actually works!

 Of Product Development