Do Less

One of the things I enjoy most about vacation is taking some time to read. It's nice to think about new ideas and just let your brain roam free latching on to whatever you want. One of the books I read was REWORK by 37 Signals. They're the guys who run BaseCamp & Highrise CRM. They put out some revolutionary ideas on their blog and one of the founders made a phenomenal TED Talk about time wasted at work.

They talk a lot about bad business practices and how they do everything backwards and how it works out really well for them.

Do Less

One of the ideas in the book was to do less and to under perform the competition. At first of course this seems like a terrible idea – why would you want less features than a competitor!? The simple answer is that individual features are all useful to someone but when you wrap up a thousand different features your software quickly becomes unusable.

You can try to please everyone and fail or you can try to please a subset of users very well and succeed. This makes perfect sense of course but it's hard to remove features when they aren't that necessary. I would rather build a tool that a few people love rather than a tool that more people use that people use because it's “good enough”.

remote controls

Remote controls. The Apple TV control is the one on the far left

When I think about doing less I tend to think about Apple. Most people just get their products. They don't need instruction manuals or training classes they just work. I think about how my grandparents can use an Apple TV remote but can't use your standard TV remote.

If you design software make it simple. Make it do a couple things really well and ignore the rest. Otherwise you start losing participation and no matter how useful the software sounds, if people don't use it it won't meet your expectations.

Let Your Customers Out Grow You

A corollary to doing less is to let your customers out grow you. You're bound to get feature requests from power users that don't really help anyone but those specific power users. If these impact the user experience for everyone you have to say no to them unless you don't want new users to be able to use your product.

I like that WooThemes doesn't promise to be everything to everyone. There are some people that are going to need custom development and the great thing about WooCommerce (and WordPress in general) is that it's totally open and extensible. We'll help you with standard requests and you can add whatever custom programming you need on top of that.

What Do You Do if You Do Less?

So what do you do if you do less? Maybe you make one less website through the year, maybe you release one less theme or one less plugin. You could take time off (what a concept!) or you could spend time refining your product. And I mean really refining it. Make it so that your grandma can use it.

I've recently been very excited about the idea of new user experience. That would be tool tips, instructions, notifications, etc, that help a user create something for the first time. If you can't get a user to understand your software in a few minutes you'll lose them. In the WordPress world this is even worse because people are used to trying out new plugins and they'll try it and uninstall it very quickly if it doesn't meet their needs.

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