May 28


Some feel that software products have to be essentially perfect in order to even have a ghost of a chance to succeed. People point to the iPhone and the iPod as examples of products that are practically perfect, down to the last detail, and are very successful.

Of course, one can point to a lot of counter-examples – projects that are less than perfect, but still quite successful (MySpace, Facebook, Google Mail, Google Docs, Twitter, etc). And, the huge pool of unknown projects – things that were never released because they could not achieve this desired perfection, and thus you are not even aware that they existed.

I think the gap here is the definition of “successful”. Some feel that a project is only successful if it has raving fans. Others focus on being useful to a lot of people, without worrying so much about perfection to the last detail.

I suspect (without statistical evidence) that you have the following kinds of results for projects that focus on perfection, vs. those that focus on “good enough”:

(Sorry the scale isn’t clear, the categories are “Never Released”, “Failure”, “Moderate Success” and “Huge Success”)

In reality, these scales are misleading, since the number of “Never Released” items is probably 10x as large (on both graphs). But in general, if you demand perfection, you have a slim increase in the chance that it will be a huge success, and a fairly significant increase in the chance that it will never be released.

Having said that, smooth functionality, elegant design and attention to detail are worthwhile. But they can be deceiving.

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