Nail your Focus First

So you’ve got your website, app, or online business. Your development resources are limited, but there are hundreds of features you want to include. What do you build next?

I find it helpful to divide these features into two categories: Solidifiers and Expanders

Solidifiers improve what you have without adding new functionality. They make your site faster, the design more unified, the content more accessible, and the interface compatible on more devices. It might include usability research, A/B testing, and SEO. Solidifiers improve what you have instead of adding more. If your site was a car, the solidifiers would be the car wash, the tune-up, the detailing, and the the wax and polish. There are a limited number of solidifiers, but you could optimize them forever.

Expanders add new features. It’s the new photo gallery, the modal pop-ups, the second blog, or the new up-voting capability. They add more instead of improving what you have. If your site was a car, the expanders would be the new tail hitch, the custom sound system, or the bike rack. The number of expanders is practically infinite, but a lot of them are not necessary or valuable for your users

The temptation is to keep adding more expanders. If we just add that new feature, perhaps we’ll get a flood of users who were just waiting for that one thing. Perhaps. If you’re a biker, that bike rack can make a huge difference.

But there’s a stronger case for handling solidifiers first. From a technical perspective, it means less refactoring in the future. From a marketing perspective, you stay more focused on the audience you have. It means you strengthen the base before building out.

Sure, you should have the important expanders, but the key is that you nail your focus first. Instagram still doesn’t have a desktop web page that shows your friends photos. They don’t bother with it because that means they can spend their time and resources making the mobile app experience really solid. Which it is.

It’s the simple car that looks really good and runs really well, and has only the features that really matter to the driver. That’s what everybody wants.