Always Solve for X

Reflecting back on the products I’ve released over the years I noticed a key difference between the successful products and the non-successful products. The difference wasn’t in market or craftsmanship. The difference started before I wrote a single line of code.

With ImageXY we were focused on designing a solution to real estate agents uploading photos that were the wrong size or too large into a crm. When building it we concentrated on that single use-case and kept our solution focused. The result was a batch image resizing app that didn’t have all the complexities of its competitors. And it turned out a lot of non-real estate agents also had the same problem and our solution worked for them as well.

Other products, like Byoyomi, a timer application that let you save and run multiple timers on your Mac, were flops. The application was stable and worked as advertised, but it was more of a solution in search of a problem.

As developers its easy to dive straight into writing code or designing interfaces the moment we have an idea that we think might work. And as a developer taking those random ideas and turning them into a reality is fun. But the chances of those inspiration-turned-hacking sessions turning into a successful product are slim.

Instead of diving into code the moment we have an idea, it’s critical that you do the hard work before your hacking sessions. The work that isn’t necessarily fun and feels like work. Take a step-back form Sketch and define, with words, the problem you’re trying to solve.

If you can’t clearly articulate the problem and who’s having that problem, any solution you build will be equally muddled.

When designing anything, you first need to define the problem that you’re trying to solve.

The major difference between my successful products and those that were just that. The successful products had a clear problem that they were solving for a specific niche while the unsuccessful ones did not. It’s much easier to solve for X when you’ve looked at the rest of the equation.