In episode 6 of This Mobile Life podcast, I discuss how the exercise of restraint makes better apps. It is one of those things that makers of digital products tend to overlook. This is not usually included in the checklist of priorities. In fact, we’re trying to cram as many features as possible into a product!
S01E06 Show Notes
I start off by discussing some of the latest news in the mobile world:
- iTunes is moving towards making their own movies. It’s interesting to watch how movie-making is being combined with behavioural analytics now with Netflix. iTunes has a lot of data on customer preferences and they are building their movies around it much like Netflix.
- Parse is shutting down. Parse is allowing one year for customers to migrate, so you can still do something for your database if you are a Parse user.
I also talked about restraint and building brands as detailed below.
Restraint Makes Better Apps
A lot of the great products out there are controlled at what they do. Excellent product management demands you say no to 100 feature requests before saying yes to adding one feature.
A case that demonstrates how restraint makes better apps can be found in the choice of features for WhatsApp. The core of WhatsApp is sending messages and it is very focused on what it does. It allows users to send text, images, video, connect to your phonebook and lets you call your friends. It is incredibly focused in that they did not allow the product to add games and stickers because it is popular with other chat apps. Still, even without these features, it is incredibly addictive and useful. It is also easy to get what the app is about and easy to use – even my parents get it and can use it!
Product management has some similarities with project management, only that you think of the product to develop and the customers. It’s over a much longer timeframe and you need to think holistically about the product. To help you focus, here are some helpful points that I consider:
- What is the job to be done? i.e why would people hire our product
- What should we build first?
- What can we build in parallel?
- When is the right time to build it?
- When is the right time to release it?
- Are there common themes in stakeholder requests?
- How do all these features fit together?
Considering all these, the product manager has to be aware of how all the features are cohesive. You need to think about how to not destroy the user experience as restraint makes better apps. Current users may also have an existing workflow. What is the impact of introducing a new workflow? Does it make their lives easier or better?
You also need to figure out what’s most important. You always need to have a good understanding of your resources. Know where you are today and what are the quick wins you can do. However, don’t forget about investing into the future. We often do the things that are easiest but sometimes we have to do the hard things for the long-term.
I am reminded of this useful post by Paul Adams, VP of Product over at Intercom. He recommends to navigate through your product roadmap using the guide: 666. It will help you examine your app’s features, use what can serve you and leave out what will not.
The 666 Roadmap is to about your product in 6 years, 6 months and 6 weeks.
- 6 years out. What is the world going to be like if we execute our vision?
- 6 months: set realistic medium term goals
- 6 weeks: short-term goals. Think about what to do now and the concrete steps to get to where you want the organisation to head towards.
666 roadmap enables you to think about your product along 3 time horizons.
Building your community and brand
In a previous episode, I interviewed Justin Carroll of Monastery and we discussed building brands and communities. One of the main takeaways from that interview is that you can copy code and products, branding and design. But you can’t copy the community. Communities are built organically, so it is much more valuable. One active customer can potentially bring in 10 more customers.
A brand might just seem like one simple visual, but it has its importance. Brands signify what you stand for, it reminds customers the many things they can expect if they use your products. People switch products easily. In the app category, one year is all it may take for 100% of customers to ditch your product. Loyalty to your brand enables you to cross-sell products, so building your brand well will mean continuity for your company.
Episode 6 Links
From older blog posts :
I hope you like the episode on restraint makes better apps. I enjoyed working on this podcast while driving and cruising through traffic.
If you liked it, please rate the podcast 5 stars in the iTunes app store and tell your friends about it!
I’m out like too many features,