Under-Developed Products are Bad. Over-Developed Products could be worse

March 2, 2021
Written By:
Dave Seeman
Dave Seeman

Striking a Balance

Under development is one way to fail your product. It's the one we all think about - an incapable designer can't execute and so your product doesn't meet your expectations. The quality isn't there, and now you've wasted time and money. To avoid that, you look for a great designer whose work is impressive to make sure you get the quality you need. But you could still spend too much money or take too long - these are other more subtle ways to fail, and they tend to come from over-developing your product. To achieve the quality you need with the budget and timeline you have, you have to find great designers who can also apply great restraint. That is where beautifully simple and effective designs come from. To equip you with the mindset to achieve this ideal development let us first take a look at the extremes.

Under Development

Have you ever used a product and almost immediately found a flaw or thought of a better way to do something? Then you've used a product that was under developed.

In software you'd call this a "Minimum Viable Product" or MVP (the cool kids call it beta or alpha). Reid Hoffman, who started LinkedIn, is known for saying "If you're not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late" - meaning a software startup can launch with an embarrassingly under developed product so that they can hear from their customers what's missing, and develop only those features that actually matter. Since it's easy to release new software, you can launch when you're under developed and build as you go.

But when you're going to spend $10k, $50k, or $100k+ on just on tooling to launch your initial product, what you call an MVP has to look very different. You might be able to get away with a missing feature or two in your physical product, but they definitely have to work. Generally speaking, hiring great designers is enough to prevent under development. But that alone will not prevent you from over developing, and that's where you need an additional layer of expertise.

Over Development

So, physical products shouldn't be under developed because it could cause them to flop. But if you hire great designers, this probably won't happen to you. So, hire great designers and your problems will go away, right?

Wrong. You know what great designers like to do? Design stuff. Design lots and lots and lots of stuff. And in our experience, individual inventors, startup founders, and corporate innovation leaders alike all share one thing in common when developing a product: they're passionate about their products, and this passion when unchecked can add fuel to the fire of designer over development. And being a great designer or engineer yourself doesn't tend make that problem go away, in fact, it can make it more pronounced.

This means that without a way to prevent over development you may end up solving problems that your customers don't care about at all, or at the very least, would have easily overlooked given all the other functionality. To do that, you probably spent more money on development and took longer to get to market than you had to. What if your customers could be just as satisfied sooner and with less up front investment from you? What if they eagerly shared feedback for further development, validating those features reducing your future development risk? We should all want that! But it will take another layer of expertise beyond design.

Ideal Development

This is where hiring a firm with the expertise to not just design the product right (tactics), but to design the right product (strategy), comes in handy. And while you'll pay more for that additional layer of expertise, you'll still end up spending less than if you hired someone cheaper because any great designer can over develop a product, but great designers and strategists can prevent you from spending excess time and money.

How we achieve ideal development

At Ovyl, we've developed a methodology that enables clients like you to ideally develop your product by replacing subjectivity with objectivity. We start all of our projects with a strategy phase made up of activities that help us identify who we are designing for and what matters to them. Then we lay out a plan that prioritizes those objectives and lays a framework for how and when we will make decisions throughout the design process to meet those objectives. By doing this, we help you define the right product and design it well.