I don’t want to write the words feature set for what we’re going to talk about today. But the words keep jumping into my mouth, or, um, into my fingers, since I’m typing and all.
Feature set is the term I use, but it’s a bad term, focussing on the wrong aspect of the app. People don’t care about features, they care about what apps do for them. Feature set obscures utility. Going too far the other way, being vague about dreams, or something is probably worse.
Every app or service can be summed up briefly. Don’t shy away from that description. You could, potentially, take over a whole industry if your phrase is broad enough.
Let’s go through a few examples.
LinkedIn is a public spot for your resume. (Or a vector for spam from LinkedIn.) Stackoverflow lets programmers ask technical questions and get technical answers. Netflix lets you watch (old) TV shows and movies whenever you want without commercials. Word lets you write documents of any kind and see what it will look like. PowerPoint lets you create slides for presentations.
You get the idea.
A lot of “features” drop out of those pithy descriptions.
It’s a useful exercise, not only right now. As the app gets developed for the first time and ships, this pithy phrase can clarify why something is in the app, or how the app should do something. It will provide focus in arguments about how a feature should work. And there will be arguments about how a feature will work. Even if there is just one person writing it.
So, what’s the pithy phrase for Project Kapowski?
Kapowski lets you see photos as you transform your body.
Not bad. Ten-ish words. I mentioned earlier that photos were the main indicator of progress that Kapowski would track.
What “features” drop out of that phrase?
- Take photos of yourself;
- Save your weight and photos at a point in time;
- View and manage the above entries;
- Provide a summary of progress so far.
There’s nothing really unique about this description, though is it? This could be any app that does the same thing.
Go back to my examples and we can say the same thing about those descriptions. They’re bland, right? My description for Netflix describes any number of streaming video services, for example. Nothing about my description of Word is unique to Word; Google Docs does the same thing (right? I don’t use it.)
So what makes Netflix synonymous with streaming video? Or Word with documents? Excel with lists of all the things in an office?
I’d argue it’s because they are awesome at that bland statement. Netflix has so many titles you’ll never watch them all; it’s very affordable. Netflix has its content inside ISPs to reduce latency. Videos start playing right away. There are no obvious animations or superfluous taps between me and my show. It remembers where I left off across devices. I can’t recall a time when a show stopped playing because of buffering. All of that stuff just works, all the time.
That’s an incredible amount of work, all engineered so that you don’t notice it.
Being awesome at your pithy statement is definitely about the sum of all details in your app. That’s the best differentiator.
That’s what we’ll, hopefully, see in Kapowski. Next we’re on to wireframes.