Duff O'Melia

Ready for Real Customers?

You’re creating a website that you’d like to release to the general public. One of the questions that needs answering is, which features do you need to make it to that first release?

I’ve been enjoying creating sites that I personally use like Spreedly and No Kahuna. When I’m an actual user of the site I’m making, it makes the decision about what to implement a bit easier.

The goal is to get to market and have the site being used by real customers as quickly as possible. For No Kahuna, that happened in 2 days. Spreedly took many weeks of effort before a real customer started using it. To release to a real customer, we’re only trying to make something that’s slightly better than what’s out there. We’re only trying to provide some value to the customer, not all of the value we’re ever going to provide. Does the site in its current state improve the lives of our customers?

When you’re your own customer, this becomes fun because you’re only working on the features that you’re quite sure would improve your life. If you’re at all unsure whether a feature provides value, defer it. Only do the stuff you’re confident about. This is fine because you’ll be released soon, and then customers will start giving you real feedback which is much more valuable than your guesses about what’s important.

Once you’re released, then you need to be judicious about which features to implement and be willing to say no to many requests from customers. In Getting Real, the 37 Signals guys said this:

And one more thing: it’s not just about the sheer number of requests (we don’t recommend adding something just because X# of people requested it), it’s about customers planting a seed in your mind. If they keep reminding you of something, it forces you to think about it. Maybe it is a good idea. Maybe it isn’t. But at least it’s important enough to consider if so many people keep asking for it.