Keeping focused by saying “no”

From Des Traynor, in Product Strategy Means Saying No:

When your product gets traction, you’ll find yourself inundated with good ideas for features. These will come from your customers, your colleagues, and yourself. Because they’re good ideas, there’ll always be lots of reasons to say yes to them. Here’s 12 arguments that are commonly used to sneak features into a product:

  1. But the data looks good
  2. But it’ll only take a few minutes
  3. But this customer is about to quit
  4. But we can just make it optional
  5. But my cousin’s neighbor said…
  6. But we’ve nothing else planned
  7. But we’re supposed to be allowed to work on whatever we want
  8. But 713,000 people want it
  9. But our competitors already have it
  10. But if we don’t build it someone else will
  11. But the boss really wants it
  12. But this could be the one

The thing is, no one keeps crap ideas in their roadmap. Identifying and eliminating the bad ideas is the easy bit. Real product decisions aren’t easy. They require you to look at a proposal and say “This is a really great idea, I can see why our customers would like it. Well done. But we’re not going to build it. Instead, here’s what we’re doing.”.

Facebook’s Julie Zhuo on combatting feature creep

Julie Zhuo, Facebook Director of Product Design on News Feed and core mobile experiences, suggests two ways to avoid feature creep:

1. Define a green light criterion, and test a small launch against it. You have a new idea that you think will make your users happier or more productive? Grow your user base? Make the company more revenue? Great, build it and try it. Launch a small test or beta to a tiny percentage of your audience and have a criteria in mind for whether/when you should launch it to everyone. Is it if you get really positive feedback? X%+ more growth? Y%+ more revenue? Clarifying these criteria as early as possible (before launching, ideally) lets you be more objective when the rubber meets the road.

2. Define a sunset criterion. In some cases, it may not be practical or even possible to test your idea to a small group. If that’s the case, ask yourself this: Under what circumstances would it make sense to kill the feature or product after it’s launched? Again, it’s easier to be objective about this earlier rather than later.