Focus on the Small

When designing a product, focus your scope to the smallest viable part of a critical business process. If your product is too big then no one will adopt. If it is too small, it won’t be useful. Build to solve aspects of large, frequent problems…

When designing a product, focus your scope to the smallest viable part of a critical business process. If your product is too big then no one will adopt. If it is too small, it won’t be useful. Build to solve aspects of large, frequent problems rather than rare, small problems.

Often times, product people and entrepreneurs assume that their newest concept has to have everything.  From beginning to end, the entire product needs to have all of the bells and whistles in order for it to stand out and show customers that it has real value.  Des Traynor of Intercom doesn’t think this is such a good idea, though. Instead, he believes to scope your product down to the specific areas where you can really add value.  Otherwise, you’ll be in for so much work… in areas that you’re really not likely to add customer value.

The areas that Des suggests scoping your product down and:

  • Start at the point in your user journey to where you can actually start adding value.  This would be the point where your product makes your user’s life better.
  • Stop when the next step in the journey starts to get very fragmented — or the next step in the process simply can’t be innovated.

Why only focus on those areas?  According to Des, you’ll just spend way too much effort and resources on the parts of the user journey that you really won’t make an impact on.  In a sense, all of that work would be wasted.

As we reflected on this, it reminded us of what we’ve heard from Jason Fried at Basecamp.  In this post, Jason talks about how it’s not necessarily the number of features that matter — it’s that you’re building the right features. 

Of course, that begs the obvious question:  What are the right features?

We won’t pretend like we have a magic answer to that.  But, we do think that Des’s advice of focusing only on the areas where you can make an impact makes sense.  If you have to start somewhere… start where you have a chance to be the very best.

Paul McAvinchey
Paul McAvinchey
paul@productcollective.com

For over 15 years, Paul has been building and collaborating on digital products with fast-growing startups and global brands, including AOL and WMS Gaming. Currently, he's a co-founder of Product Collective, a 15,000+ strong worldwide community of product people. Members collaborate on Slack, meet at INDUSTRY: The Product Conference, listen to Rocketship.fm, learn at Product Lunch and get a weekly brief that includes best practices in product management. In recent years he led business development at DXY, a leading product design firm in the Midwest, and product innovation at MedCity Media, a publishing startup acquired by Breaking Media in 2015.