After my short post yesterday about the notion of “ship — don’t wait” one of our fellow heretics wrote to me with the following question:
“[…] But then the hard part is finding the right balance between a Steve Jobs’ like perfectionism and getting a crappy product out the door. I guess shipping a crappy product is somewhat better than not shipping at all, but how do you arbitrate between ‘shipping a crappy product now, at the risk of disappointing our customers’, vs. ‘ship a more polished product in two months, but it could turn out to be 6’.[…]”
That is an excellent question and warrants an answer. I asked our fellow heretic if he would be okay with me answering this here instead of in private email, as I believe the question is relevant for a lot of us. So here we go:
First of all — you are not Steve Jobs (and neither am I or anyone else). Nor do most of us run a company which is worth $486 billion and which ships products to millions of customers in god-knows how many countries. Failure for most of us is much cheaper than it was for Steve. He needed to get it right — otherwise he would wipe out billions of dollars worth of market cap and piss off millions of customers.
You most likely have either zero customers (if you just get started) or a very small amount of customers. If you annoy your first hundred customers because your product is not exactly where it could be — that’s most likely okay. If you screw up a feature for your early adopter base — that’s most likely okay. In both cases you have to be committed to fix problems quickly and make sure you stay in touch with your users. They are early adopters for a reason, right?
Note that I am not the biggest fan of the lean startup methodology. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the idea of launching a product when you know that it’s essentially shit and everybody will hate it — just in the name of shipping, failing fast and all that jazz.
And — you want to ship. And for me the point in time when it’s right to ship is when you find yourself “optimizing”. Those moments when you spend a perfectly fine afternoon fine-tuning the CSS of your website to make sure that all fonts are perfectly aligned. Whenever you find yourself in that mode — you’re much better off shipping the damn thing. The fine-tuning is something you can do along the way, once you have collected user feedback (which most likely will keep you busy and focussed on the important things instead of obsessing about minor details).
P.S. Somewhat a tangent — Thank you for being in touch. This is precisely the reason why I launched this experiment as a newsletter and not as a blog. It’s great to hear from you, hear your experiences and get your questions. Keep it coming. :)