I’ll admit it. I love rounded corners. They’ve gone out of style somewhat, but I still love ’em. When we were building Standout Jobs, we made the decision to have rounded corners on all the widgets that appeared on a career site. Actually, I probably made the decision. I certainly pushed hard for it. Rounded corners just looked so much better with the design we were implementing. But in many ways it was a mistake.
Implementing rounded corners for our dynamic career sites (where widgets could be dragged and dropped, resized, etc.) was a pain in the ass. Cross-browser compatibility was a nightmare. It took a lot of time compared to the value returned.
Every startup faces day-to-day product decisions like rounded corners. Nice-to-haves that somehow get stuck in our minds as must-haves that ultimately, return very little value. Instead of investing in rounded corners, we should have asked ourselves, “Will this feature sell more product?” Realistically, the answer was “No.” And that should have stopped us in our tracks.
Product management is an exercise in extreme vigilance
It sounds simple to do, but it’s not. It takes extreme vigilance and a rigorous, fanatical approach to product management. After all, rounded corners are so cool!
Instead, we invested in rounded corners. (I don’t remember how much total time was invested.) As a result we wasted time and were saddled with technical burden. This is similar to technical debt (which is caused by half-assing things during development and having that bite you in the rear later.) We didn’t half-ass rounded corners, we did it right and it was slick. But we were left with significant technical burden. Every time we wanted to change something tied to the display of widgets we had to make sure it worked with the rounded corners code. So it kept coming back to haunt us, and cost us more and more time.
Getting stuck in a product decision rabbit hole
When we compared rounded corners and non-rounded corners visually, the rounded corners won. And our product was very much about presenting companies in the most visually appealing way. That’s why I considered rounded corners so important. But instead of pushing that specific vision of how the product should look and work, we should have stepped back and looked for creative alternatives. But we went down a specific rabbit hole (rounded corners vs. non-rounded corners) and couldn’t pull ourselves out. There was absolutely no reason that the visual design of our product should have been binary. There are almost always alternatives to the so-so solutions at hand.
Launch quickly. Iterate after.
We hear this mantra over and over, but it’s honestly very difficult to execute on. Who doesn’t want to release a “perfect” product? Who doesn’t instinctively feel like adding “one more feature” is going to win the day?
Remember: If the feature won’t sell more of your product, don’t build it.
And: If you feel you’re making a binary decision (X vs. O) then stop, go to the whiteboard and brainstorm alternatives. Peel back the layers, shake out the cobwebs and get creative.
image courtesy of shutterstock