The art of product

Getting from ideas to delighted customers

The fallacy of precision

We product people can get very precise. We may describe how something should be built, what features our software must have, what colour a button should be.

But precision can be your enemy.

Let’s find out why.

If you specify detailed requirements, this assumes that you know at a very deep level what the customers problem is, what their daily life is like, what they spend hours doing that they hate, what keeps them awake at night and what would really improve their lives and businesses.

If you don’t know that, then why are you insisting that the button is blue?

If you have the most detailed specification in the world for a feature that fixes problem A, that’s great. But if the customer would rate problem B as a bigger problem, then you have missed the point. Now your details and precision lock you in to fixing/solving/developing a ladder that climbs up the wrong tree.

Note I care as much why the customer picked A, that reason, as much as the choice itself. I can only learn this if I avoid the free iPad question!

This is why my prototypes in the early stage are black and white. I don’t want people to get hung up on design elements. I don’t want to discuss the size of the font in this section. I want feedback on what the flows are, what the job to be done is, and how well this matches.

At least then, I can be roughly wrong and change course rather than precisely wrong and stay heading off target.

About Patrick O'Malley