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The Arrogance of Building A Perfect Product

eekayonline profile image Edwin Klesman Originally published at shipharder.com ・5 min read

It's time we stopped showing arrogance and think "we know what the users of our product want". If you want a product that matches the user's expectations, you need to interact with people from your target market from the get-go. Building a product and thinking/hoping it will work isn't going to cut it anymore.

The arrogance of building a perfect product has to do with ego. Like Albert Einstein explains in his formula.

How familiar does the following story, of a production team that is building a product called “The Product” sound to you:

A Tale of Building The Perfect Product

Day and night they build on The Product. Week in and out they checked if all the features were added, found new ones to add and irrelevant ones to remove.

The scope shifted more or less. During the development project one manager got a burnout because the deadlines came closer.

Another one got replaced because of disappointing progress reports.

“The Product had to be perfect”, the product manager said in last month’s investor meeting.

“We only get one chance at a first impression, so this has to be pretty darn good!” his manager told during the weekly status meeting.

The product team got less and less motivated while working off their asses on what seemed a small bundle of functionality and a single goal in the beginning.

Only 3 more months and the product will be released, the manager told his team with a delight. The Product is finally going to be good enough to be released…

The Few That Knew It All

How selfish of the creators to think that they could decide what the best version of The Product would need to look like. And what the most relevant processes would be of all those processes that the end users would need to take care of when using "The Product".

As if they, a handful of people that were putting The Product together, could understand and participate what goes on in the minds of the thousands of intended users for their products.

And yet, this is a scenario that we see at many — if not, most — of today's enterprises and business all around the world.

The arrogance of building a perfect product has to do with the fact that we think we know "what's best for other people". Let's try to find out what's best for ourselves first, will we?

The arrogance of building a perfect product has to do with the fact that we think we know "what's best for other people". Let's try to find out what's best for ourselves first, will we?
The Battlefields have Changed

There was a time when companies could get away with building product as if it was a warhead missile, only build with one purpose: to hit a target and let it have an impact by just dropping it above the heads of the unlucky bastards below.

But this ain’t gonna fly anymore, bros and sistas. Nowadays, there is a lot of competition.
When you’re building your product in a shed, as if it is a war tank that can only come out when it’s finished and painted exactly how you want it, the war is already over before you’ve fired a single shot.

The arrogance of building a perfect product has to do with the fact that we think we know "what's best for other people". Let's try to find out what's best for ourselves first, will we.

The arrogance of building a perfect product shows that it's time for a change.
Arrogance meets Lazyness

There is nothing but arrogance and laziness in trying to create a product and delivering it to the masses without previous interactions with people that are possible users.

The arrogance lies in the fact that no one, not a big company nor a small independent developer can define a product in one stretch that takes care of a problem AND delivers the solution.

Thinking so insinuates that a couple of people know what’s best for the masses of people that might use it. Just like a government that wants to steer an entire nation without involving their citizens it just isn’t going to work in the long haul.

And thinking that you can create a single shot release that will work instantly and fix a problem for users at once, is lazy thinking. It is a mindset that is fuelled by naive thinking and by the hope that what you throw up against the wall will stick.

If you’re not checking what the walls are made of, how moistened the air is and if the temperature at the wall is constant or variating, you won’t know shit and the chances of your product falling into the dirt on the ground (ending onto the pile of other stuff that didn’t stick) is a more likely scenario than your product earning a spot on the wall.

If you want to build something that sticks, you need to find out you surroundings. Who is your target market. What do they want? Else, it just won't stick.

Don’t Hide Behind The Building

Don’t be afraid to expose your work, let them see touch feel and smell it. Get feedback and make it better the next day.

Listen to the people that you’re trying to help and make them part of your process.

Get input, work on it, refine your product and show them again.
Rinse and repeat.

If you’re waiting for perfect you’re going to wait forever. So stop hiding behind the building and get your product in place.

Show it on a napkin.
Create a Powerpoint demo.
Pivot a Proof of Concept.
Beta test.
Whatever.

As long as you can validate and get your mind in check with the intended user market.

There is no such thing as a perfect product. It is all about getting close enough to provide value that you can charge for.

A False Shortcut

Please, don’t be like the production team in the story.

Don’t be lazy and try to build a product and think it might stick because you know the problem.

It takes work to get to know your market. To learn about the mindset of your users.

It takes time to learn about the problem’s intricacies.

Grinding isn’t named Grinding because it’s easy. It’s called like that but because time, sweat and effort are​ needed to find out what works.

There is no shortcut for grinding besides grinding harder. And if a shortcut seems to be surfacing, 999 out of a thousand times, it’s a false one.

Don’t build to last, but last to build

Because building your product and building a better incremental version until your product is viable is what is going to let it make the difference in people’s lives.

Are you looking for professional advice for your app idea, or do you want a blueprint specified for your app?
Visit EEKAY ONLINE to find out more about the next steps for your app

Code Hard, Ship Harder.

This article originates from Shipharder.com, the website for makers that helps to get a value-first mindset

Discussion

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scottshipp profile image
scottshipp

Another perspective comes from interaction designer Alan Cooper in the excellent book The Inmates are Running The Asylum. Cooper is famous for being "the father of Visual Basic" and successfully predicted the success of Apple based on their design-first paradigm.

Not to say either is right, but there is some merit in the results of companies like Apple for sticking to design principles. One might say there's overlap with the ideas here, e.g. don't let engineers dictate the product, let designers do it (who should be advocating for user experience).

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Edwin Klesman Author

Hey @scottshipp ,

That's an awesome addendum to my article 🙌🏻. And I have to say, I don't disagree with you and Apple as an example.

It all depends on their definition of "perfection". I think that at Apple, they like to build stuff that they're proud of themselves, and that they want the products to be "perfect" because they want to use those for themselves.

If you set yourself as the user, it is easier to understand what you should aim for. And if you represent someone that is right in the middle of a target group, that will work out.

It all depends on knowing and/or finding out if you represent a large enough group to build for and use yourself as a reference.

I think Apple has a lot of user- and usability testing going on within their walls (one round wall??) that we don't see and hear about that much. And that there is a long road of talking about all possible needs, wants and scenario's before they get their products out there.

Anyway, the point I am trying to make in the article is this:

Often trying to build something perfect for your users without engaging with the users from your intended market is a way of "being arrogant" and thinking you know what they want instead of getting proof of that.
Or it is used as an excuse to constrain budgets and "save money" whereas it will cost more money in the end to fix a product or to target another market because your product doesn't fit the intended market.

Thanks again for your comment. Love the book reference, I'll check it out for sure! 👌🏻