January 2012 Archives

3 Selfish Features

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Selfish features make your staff happy and efficient, but have nothing to do with helping your audience. Remember them? The people who are going to make or break you? The people for whom your site exists in the first place?

Here’s a few features I consider “selfish”:

1 - Content Management Systems (CMS)

CMS’s are great, and critical for creating new information for your audience. Keep in mind that you could read a book and learn to write HTML, or maybe even pay the geeky kid down the street to update a bunch of static pages for you.

Don’t wait for a CMS to start your site. Put SOMETHING up while you’re rigging the internals of your authoring tool.

2 - Analytics Dashboards

Dashboards are sexy. They combine lot of impressive looking charts and figures into one place.

Sadly, dashboards are time-consuming for developers to build and test, and people rarely look at them.

Try waiting until you find yourself saying “Boy, if we only had metric X, I’ll bet we could make 15% more”, and THEN ask for the report or dashboard. Remember, time spent on reports is time NOT spent on features for your customers.

3 - Rich Text Editors

This goes along with the CMS selfish feature. People want their authoring experience to be “just like using Word”. Reality Alert: authoring HTML is not the same as authoring a term paper.

Rich text editors almost never work. They create bloated, crazy markup that messes with page styles, have unpredictable image placement and layout, and pretty much cause more trouble than they’re worth. Consider markdown or a similarly humane syntax that helps the author out, but doesn’t try to candy-coat the reality of what they’re doing.



There are many more. You get the idea.

I’m not advocating that we never build selfish features, but it’s important to recognize them for what they are: indulgences to make life easier for you, and not for your audience.