Archive for August, 2009

Build you features from the bottom up

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

This should be a very important rule of thumb for every project but unfortunately it is not. I have seen many projects for which the “man with the idea” wants to build right from the start everything that ever comes in his mind. At some point in time he will probably ask the “technical people” if any of this is at all possible but he probably won’t take the advice and perhaps even more probably those people will avoid giving them that kind of advice. Anything must be possible otherwise the “money people” go to the people who will say it’s possible – it might turn out to be a bad deal for the “money people” in the end but who cares – not the “technical people” that’s for sure; and for the “money people” it’s already too late and after all they asked for it.
So don’t ask for it. The most successful projects are built from very simple ideas and expanded with great features and sometimes even with more “sister-projects” that they wouldn’t even had dreamed of in day one. Take Google for example: they just built a search engine with virtually no “special features” at all: no complicated statistics, no fancy graphics, no image and video search and essentially no anything other than a simple but efficient search engine. Today they offer email services, application hosting, analytics and so on and so forth – you probably would know all their services better than me. On top of their services there are a number of other companies that offer services that could be offered by Google in the first place: take page thumbnails in web searches for example.
The Google story is very simple: come with a simple idea and make it real. In order to keep it real while it became very successful they had to build infrastructure and applications. Then they took this infrastructure and applications and they thought “what more can we do with it?” That’s how all their services came to life.
Take Google Analytics: they don’t show live traffic. Yet several projects I have worked for wanted their huge datasets to be aggregated in real time and in any way possible: live traffic, live statistics, live everything and for whatever keyword, field, condition the user could think of. Surely this is a great business model on paper – giving the user exactly what he wants and when he wants it. But only on paper: that’s why Google is big and those projects remain small.
Of course there are some other models for building projects and businesses. Like the Microsoft “market-oriented” model. But I’ll talk about those some other time.