Saying No to the Customer
by Seni Sangrujee on February 13, 2011I get a few emails every day from customers asking me to add new features to an app. One of the things I used to find difficult was saying no to the customer, but sometimes it's the right move for the product.
When I first launch an app, it's usually just an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and essentially an experiment to see if there's a audience out there for a particular idea. In the early days, the feature suggestions from early adopters are key and help me flesh out the idea, round out the product, and make a Go/No-Go Decision on whether to pursue the app further.
But for some of my apps that have gotten moderate traction (Prayers to Share with 93,000 downloads on Android/14,000 downloads on iPhone, Movie Collection with 85,000 downloads on Android, Music Collection with 94,000 downloads on Android), it's no longer scalable to implement even a fraction of the features requested.
This is painful to me because I appreciate these emails so much, the fact the someone cares enough about one of my apps to take the time to write and that they've thought about ways to make it better. The Customer Service part of me wants to make users happy, and the Engineer part of me is intrigued by how to implement this new feature, but I strive to avoid bloated apps, especially on mobile where simpler is always better.
Should It Stay or Should It Go?So the question is, which features to implement out of the bunch that were submitted? For several of my apps, I'm not actually a user since I originally wrote it because someone asked me to write it for them.
What I often end up doing is imagining a quintessential user for a particular app sort of like the political targeting of Soccer Moms or Nascar Dads. This user is usually an amalgamation of the characteristics of several people I know. And the funny thing is that this user is never a power user, which kills a lot of the feature suggestions that will only be used by 2% of the people using the app.
But I do make an exception for a few of my apps. Sometimes I get a handful of users that are so passionate about an app that they effectively take over the direction of the app going forward. But that's the topic of my next post, The Customer As Product Manager.