Great on day one

Some nice thoughts from Marco Arment about how great products are great right from the start:

The original iPhone was great on day one. It couldn’t do as much as today’s iPhone, but it performed its feature-set extremely well. There were almost no rough edges or unpolished areas in its hardware or software, and nearly everything seemed justifiable, well conceived, and well executed.

Apple tends to do that a lot. It’s deeply ingrained in their culture, priorities, and product development practices. In brief, their philosophy seems to be to ship only what’s great and leave out the rest. That’s why, instead of having a bad copy-and-paste implementation for the iPhone’s first two years, we just didn’t have one at all.

Yes, it’s very important to improve and iterate your designs. But on day one you either believe you have a great product (of any size) or you don’t. Often the temptation to build a “platform” or “system” is so strong that you build a skeleton of that vision and fill in the gaps with things that you know aren’t great. That makes for a patchwork product that doesn’t excite anyone.

Instead, do something smaller that’s great from day one. Brandon Schauer’s “cake model of product strategy” is a great depiction of this; instead of spending your first 2 launches on undesirable and possibly unnecessary skeletons, build a small version that’s desirable immediately:

Another good manta is 37signals’ “Build half a product, not a half-ass product“.