I am not a developer. I have not been for a really long time. In an internship during engineering days, I was coding. Yes. I used to code at that time. And I had to work on a project that was left midway by the dev who was no longer with the company. The bugs in that code gave me headaches. The code was so badly written that I decided to let go of the whole damn thing and rewrite complete modules from scratch!
And then — I decided NO MORE! I haven’t been a coder ever since. It has been a decade now.
So. Whenever I need to get a product built, I have to rely on the expertise of someone who I ‘feel’ can do a better job at it than I can. Why ‘feel’? I have ended up hiring freelancers a number of times, and yeah — the experiences haven’t been pretty. But this isn’t about any of that. So, lets talk of the scenario where I am working on something and I have the perfect guy who has graciously agreed to help me bring the product to a reality.
TT (The Tech) : “It will take 4 months.”
TCE (The Clueless Entrepreneur) : “Sure. That’s not an issue. Now let us figure out what we can have ready in a month”
TT : “What? No the product will take 4 months to build.”
TCE : “Yes I understand that. It’s fine. But we can surely launch a barebone product with just a couple of features in 3–4 weeks.”
TT : “No. It doesn’t work like that. It increases the dev effort at our end and it is bad for your business as well.”
TCE : “Bad for my business?”
TT : “Yes. If you launch a half ready product in front of your customers, people will hate it, leave and you would lose them forever.”
Really? That’s your big move. To give me the scare of losing out on lifelong customers? There are very few — may be less than 1% — possible scenarios wherein the actions of a company result in losing out on its audience for good. A good percentage of the nation (India) was going batshit crazy about Snapchat’s CEO’s alleged anti-India remarks — uninstalling Snapchat, giving it 1-star ratings on app stores, posting derogatory and threatening messages on his girlfriend’s instagram feeds (yes — that did happen). Fast forward a week, most of the uninstallers are busy going through their Snapchat feeds again.
You shouldn’t and you mustn’t wait for the product to be ready to put it out there. I would rather release a barebone version today and keep on iterating based on user data than wait 3 additional months to come up with a product that I have no idea on how it would resonate with my audience.
Product development has to be on a Rinse repeat, or better still Eat sleep rave repeat mode.
#1. You add up to whatever product you currently have (yes, it is fine to have the current state as 0)
#2. You push it out — preferably to a smaller base (always do A/B testing)
#3. You look at the data — how people are engaging with your product now vs before the latest update
#4. You learn from the data and go back to step 1. And repeat
I don’t know if you will get to the perfect product or not. But you will surely reach the state of a better product every week as compared to what you had.
There is one other fun thing that happens with me while working with TT. Or trying to work with him.
The first few meetings are the hardest. There would be a lot of features and seemingly ‘critical’ modules that would be suggested and strongly recommended to me, and almost all the time I have to say — NO! The guy is not amused.
It is natural for someone giving their time, effort and energy in building a product to want it to be as great as possible. Who wouldn’t? But, you seem to be missing one critical piece of information — It really isn’t your product, is it? No. When I said, it isn’t his product, I didn’t mean its mine. I don’t think it is my product as well. The product is the end user’s and noone else’s. Anybody who thinks otherwise has got his priorities all mixed up, and there is nothing more disastrous than mixed up priorities.
You (be it the developer, or a useless entrepreneur like me) aren’t supposed to be building a great product. You are building a product that would help your consumer do a certain thing. ONE THING. That’s it. This is the most important thing I want to emphasize on. Be sure your product is just about one thing. Don’t distract and confuse your consumers showing them a fork in the road every few minutes. Don’t forget, they hadn’t even heard of you till yesterday. The more leaflets you offer, the more information you try to cram up in his head, the less likely it becomes for him to remember you.
But you need to have more than just one feature?
Okay. Sure, I can certainly understand that. Choose one and focus on that and just that. The one that you think will resonate the most with your consumer base. You never know. The shape, direction and the value of your business might change based on that one single feature.