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20+ questions to find the simplest design. How to cut features and enjoy it.

By April 23, 2010blog, featured

No warp drive. Probably no holo-deck.

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Simpler products are easier to maintain and use. Finding the minimal design among more complex alternatives is a process of what-if questioning. Try asking these questions about your design and its features:

  1. Does this feature solve real problems for real customers? (Or did we imagine it into being?)
  2. If we remove this feature, do any of the key use cases break?
  3. Is adding this feature significantly better than doing nothing? What are the costs, risks and benefits of both paths?
  4. What don’t people want in the product?
  5. Is this feature going to change people’s behavior, or just slow them down?
  6. Will the presence or absence of this feature make or break the product?
  7. Are there more important features or products that we could focus on?
  8. Is there a substitute, another product or behavior, that makes this feature unnecessary?
  9. Would our customers be able to love the product without this feature?
  10. Can we command a higher price because of this feature?
  11. Will this feature help us to sell more of our product or service?
  12. One, five and ten years from now, who will remember this feature?
  13. Is this feature central to the soul of the product?
  14. How many people would use this feature? How many people would notice if we removed it?
  15. Does this feature address an edge case or a core use case?
  16. Does the product look-and-feel improve if we remove this feature?
  17. Can we find another location, or more subtle entry point, for this feature?
  18. What would [insert your favorite champion of simplicity] do?
  19. Are we willing to go over on time or budget for this feature?
  20. Is this feature going to put the competition on its heels?
  21. Are we willing to justify and defend this feature to the product team? To the CEO?
  22. Who will remember this feature in 1, 2, and 5 years? How long before this feature is irrelevant?
  23. What will it take to maintain this feature? Are we ready to live with it for the next 18 months?
  24. Are we being lazy? Are we punting an engineering or design problem over to our customers?
  25. Are we asking our customers to live with a feature that we ourselves dislike?

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