Design Your Product to Do One Thing Really Well

San Francisco tech companies are obsessed with an orthopedic shoe brand called Allbird. That audience liked the shoe because it spoke to exactly what they want: something comfortable made from thoughtfully chosen materials. It does that one thing really well, and that’s how it differentiated in a highly competitive market.

Last week we talked about Instagram and how Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger carved out a niche by focusing on the one thing their audience really liked: editing photos with filters and sharing them with their friends. They started out with a product called Burbn that was only motivated by trying to be a better Foursquare. They weren’t doing any one thing particularly well; they were just trying to do what Foursquare had already locked down.

That is until they found the one feature that differentiated from the market. It was a simple thing — something that didn’t require some stroke of innovative genius to create. The true masterstroke was in recognizing the opportunity in that one thing they knew people liked and building an entire product around it.

Too many new products these days get bogged down in feature creep. They want to do everything and don’t end up doing anything particularly well. Even worse, they present an app that is more incoherent than it is useful to any kind of person.

In that last article on Instagram and stagnating growth, we mentioned Barry Schwartz and his theories on choice — the so-called ‘paradox of choice’. His argument is that when we are given too many choices, it becomes overwhelming rather than empowering. Ultimately, we are paralyzed by the vast stretches of options available to us.

The same logic applies strongly to product design. People don’t want to wade into an app loaded with complicated features and slowly work through comprehending it. They want a lot of apps that they know will do one thing really well.

Whether or not you agree with Barry, there’s no doubt that highly targeted design and messaging is quickly become the norm. Look no further than the progression from TV packages to online streaming services for that proof. We don’t want to buy something that offers the one thing we want bundled with all the things we don’t want anymore.

If we want HBO, we get the HBO app. If we want to share photos, we get Instagram. TechCrunch calls this new phenomenon the Unbundling of Everything, and there is very little doubt that we are living in a sort of age of unbundling. Highly specialized products are quickly becoming the norm and they are the key to unlocking success and carving out a place in the market.

What is the one thing you do well? What is the one thing that no one else is doing quite as well as you could? Most importantly, what is the one thing that a specific audience out there really wants? You don’t need to try everything anymore — just do one thing really damn well and you’ve got it made.

Be an artisan — a master of a single art. It’s just not worth being a jack of all trades anymore.

— ZK

Ed Lynes13p5Comment