Ode to the Little Stuff

This past week I had finished a big project for my work and was trying to decide what to build next. We had discussed several major new projects that included a major overhaul of one of the core interfaces to our application. However, instead of starting that, I took some time to fix a bunch of nagging little bugs that had been bothering me (and our users) for some time.

Now, you might say, “But Chris, what about the lean startup approach? What about the Minimum Viable Product? Aren’t you guys supposed to be a scrappy startup? Well, yes…

But…

Don’t forget the little stuff. It represents your biggest opportunity to get maximum impact for a minimum of effort. Yes, I could have re-architected our front-end stack to implement new features, but fixing bad copy, broken CSS and a poor user interface served our customers far better than that would have. The key word in MVP is viable. It isn’t just a minimum product; it has to be one that validates and implements (successfully) your business model. Otherwise, it’s just junk.

There is a second reason to think about the little stuff: putting the user first. Sometimes, it is tempting to fall into the trap of wanting to take out a new canvas and make big, bold strokes to hit your targets. Certainly, not falling into ruts is a key startup success trait. However, by taking what you have and re-focusing on what about it is broken, you get much closer to a workable product than constantly starting over. A good engineer doesn’t start over their project from scratch every time they find a mistake. A good engineer fixes it and refactors it into a good, workable product. The same holds for designing your product. Making it better is more rewarding and more beneficial to your users than starting over.