When it comes to building great products, less is more. In fact, a good rule of thumb is to focus only on the top three features or benefits of any given product. Make sure those three key features or benefits produce a “Wow!” experience…and if they don’t then find the three key features that do.
I’ve been asked to help evaluate numerous prototypes and beta products throughout the years. Inevitably, entrepreneurs take the “everything but the kitchen sink” approach or (like the infomercials) the “wait there’s more” approach. I’m not a big fan of such products as not only does it signal the team doesn’t really know their customer well enough but more importantly the final product is usually confusing to the customer. The product lacks focus and lacks direction and rarely solves a real world problem easily enough to justify continued use of the product.
So, I end up asking simple questions and we often end up doing a whiteboard “focusing” exercise based on “putting the customer in the room” (a phrase I believe I first heard from Peter Horan – AllBusiness.com CEO). Peter has a knack for succintly describing success in his “phrase turns”. I loved this phrase so much because it simply described most everything I learned about customer interactions during my early Intuit days. I’ll likely be posting a lot of lessons learned from Intuit and Scott Cook (no relation) and our renowned fanatical customer focus so I even made a category out of Peter’s phrase.
Back to the whiteboard exercise. ……Who exactly is the target customer? Many times the answer is “Everyone”…to which I cringe… but’s that a whole other post. What is the first thing a customer sees? What do you want them to actually see? Why will a customer use this product? What “real problem” does this product solve and why is this solution better? When will they use it? A bunch of questions.
Basically, this exercise almost always boils down to trying to pare down the multiple menu items, buttons, and/or links into:
3 or fewer Key Benefits
3 or fewer Key Product Features
and finally 3 Clicks or fewer to produce the solution.
Once the team starts focusing on these bite size pieces instead of the 7 course meal, the product starts tasting a whole lot better.
As I re-read this, I’m recalling a similar theme in one of Peter’s posts on the “Barely Sufficient Product”, so feel free to continue reading our shared thoughts on this subject.