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Stop guessing: A guide towards deciding your next feature

Suhail Doshi

When deciding on your next idea for your startup consider this list:

1. When I build this feature, what will I learn?

Eric Ries of IMVU, a big proponent of continuous
learning,
talks about his approach. You can’t expect to
grow and evolve without creating things that help better understand what your
customers really want. Our friends integrated Mixpanel
into a music site they were working on to find out
exactly how new features were responding with new users. They use this
information to serve as the basis to figure out what to iterate next every
week.

2. Forget what the end result should look like, what is the first iteration
going to do?

Launch fast, listen, and iterate. Even if you iterate a few more times and it
completely flopped, you still saved time from pursuing the “dream concept”
which would’ve led you down a more incorrect path. Paul Buchheit, creator of
Gmail, talks about how rapid prototyping can help lead to the
innovation
you’re looking for.

3. Figure out what your users are engaging with most, iterate that.

Work on the flows of that feature to help you get to your goal. In Paul’s post
he talks about how he “would just write the code, release the feature, and
watch the response.” While working on your startup, why would you work on
anything else if you’re getting a great response from something that is
engaging your customers–keep iterating it. Start
tracking
how your users are behaving with the things you
release to figure this out.

4. Don’t build features that require critical mass…yet.

Come up with sub-goals that can help reach critical mass and iterate towards
your sub-goals. Critical mass type features often don’t provide immediate
value early on, build things that give immediate value which will engage
people better.

5. Don’t build power user features…yet. They are a complete waste of your
time till you actually have a sustainable amount of power users.

Power user features generally start off as: “Wouldn’t it be cool if our
existing feature x,y,z could do a,b,c” and only seems to enhance user
experience, not necessarily the startup’s immediate goals. Build new things
that will hook in new users because they are valuable or solve a problem.
Spend your time wisely, it’s often worth more than anything else.

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