Monday, January 9, 2012

Don't Be a Feature Pig

I had conversations with 3 separate founders over the past 4 days, all of whom are brilliant and accomplished, and all of whom have more vision than capacity to serve it. I'm very familiar with this, because I am absolutely the same way: I want it all, I want it fast, I want it now, so let's get it done.

And that's not a great approach.

You're smart. Brilliant. Your mind races through the possibilities, almost constantly. Because these days the possibilities seem endless; I believe they are.

Everything is programmatically possible. And that's the problem.

As founders we bring a lot to the table--vision, energy, capabilities, desire to serve, desire to win, etc. Balancing that so you move forward is sometimes tough.

I'm a Feature Pig. Anyone who's worked with me knows I see the possibilities and want them all, if only to see how they work in real life; there's a big difference between a feature on paper and in practice.

But it's not the best approach, and can really interfere with a project.

The balancing act is this: you need enough features to round out the product--like Ries' Minimum Viable Product--but not so much that you 1)overwhelm the customer and 2) delay your project.

The brain interprets everything it sees and hears. Everything on a page is information--every line, every word, every space, color, images, shapes, etc.

And all of that goes into the user's understanding of the app and experience with it. The more features, the greater the learning curve. The more features, the more noise on the page, the more interpretation and the greater chances of problems along the way.

It's frustrating--I know this very well--it's frustrating to have a vision that will accelerate the product adoption and not be able to get that in, because your team is focused on the "core stuff". And sometimes you can redefine what's core.

But when you have ideas coming all the time, in real time, and you run them by everyone, all the time, in real time, it starts to wear on them.

Your team needs successes, concrete wins, and a sane working environment. If you're constantly innovating and expecting them to respond, you'll weaken their efforts and be perceived as, well, as Random Idea Guy. RIG. RIG the Features Pig. Nice.

So how do you handle that brain on fire?

Write it down. Run it by people when they aren't focused on production--like after work at dinner, or during lunch. If you have a technical hurdle to understand, you might pull someone in, but again, write it down. Then schedule it, realistically. Take time to socialize the idea with your team.

I write down everything these days using Evernote or on paper. Very simply--I mostly use bullet points. If I need to sketch something out, I use a simple image program and create quick mockups. If it makes sense to move forward with it, I wireframe it with light BDD specs.

Developing the discipline of knowing what features should go in, how they are represented visually, how it works, and when to let your team know is critical to your success.

Develop that balance and you'll be able to push your team faster, and you'll get your features (which you should definitely test with users before deploying fully).

Don't develop that balance and discipline, and you'll slow things down--it's self-defeating. Now go cut some features :)

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