Like most startups, when 5Nova launched, our team was zealous and eager to achieve our goals. Our passions drove us to work hard and long. But with the drive to succeed comes the temptation to over committ.
Likewise, when building a web presence, a company can be easily enticed into including every potential feature, widget and piece of content they can dream up. The result is typically diminishing returns while lacking a deliberateness to be constrained.
While a startup has no shortage of dreams, drive or energy to get things done, it does have physical resource limitations such as a lack of capital, staff and knowledge. So early on the 5Nova team decided that we would act purposefully with respect to the projects and customers we accepted in the hopes of avoiding the over commitment trap.
While it has not been easy turning away potential customers with a willingness to pay, it has been effective. The more we have said “no” to less than optimally defined projects, the more prospects have engaged in scoping discussions until both sides have achieved a clear understanding of relationship value. At that point it becomes clear to both parties to move forward or walk away.
The other part of the “no” spectrum has to do with perfection. Like many in development, we found ourselves to be over achievers always looking to make that perfect product or website. In the end we adopted a methodology of speed over absolute perfection and found that we were able to accomplish greater efficiency by increasing the iteration frequency on a design or product.
Such narrowly defined focus and intent resulted in less time to learn how to improve on a design or methodology. That revelation led to our Speed to Marketing and Web Brilliance philosophies: to be fast and smart in the use of our resources, delivery of our services and design of customer web sites.
These lines of thought were recently echoed in the December2010/January 2011 issue of Inc. Magazine by Jason Fried, co-founder of 37signals, in his article entitled “How To Kill a Bad Idea”. In it Jason contrasts the differences between developing software and a physical product, like a water bottle.
Two stark truths emerged: first, that creating a web site is still software development and, second, that unlike the water bottle, software is not constrained by the laws of physics. And therein lies the problem – without constraints it is much more difficult to create purposeful definitions. Jason concludes that the best constraint we can exercise in software development is learning to say “no” early and often as this causes us to challenge each new web page, feature, setting, button, and most importantly, each additional increase in project time and cost.
Focus on your top 3-5 web presence goals and when you have the metrics to support success, revisit your goals before deciding to add more complexity to you website. It is better to give your audiences a great experience with a few points of interest than a good experience with many subject matters.
You don’t have to do it yourself but you do have to own it. Ask yourself the tough questions ahead of time – do you have the time, skill and interest to design and launch your web presence? Do you exercise self-control in setting and enforcing boundaries? Do you have an eye for what constitutes “enough” to meet objectives? Or do you need the discipline of a partner who will ensure your team’s effort will become simpler, smarter and faster?
In the end, we want customers to choose 5Nova because we are willing to say “no” while being deliberate in your web presence success.