June 25, 2005

The dotted line

Seth Godin posted four charts describing the adoption of a product or service. These are just a simple way to visualize the various modes of user or consumer uptakes. Says Seth:

The challenges are pretty obvious. First, how do you decide where to put the dotted line? Second, how do you avoid killing something too early, or celebrating too early. And last, how do you know when to kill a dud? The odds are with those smart enough to launch something new tomorrow.

These questions, to me, are the most interesting part of the post. The challenges might be obvious, but they're the hardest part to figure out.

It feels like I've been hitting these questions a lot lately at work. Not necessarily with launching a product or a service, but rather with features on our website. As you might have guessed from my series of recent posts on website stats, I've been looking at more ways to measure usage of different aspects of the site. Like most folks, we have lots of features, and limited resources. So, logic dictates that we should focus on the highest value features and dump the low-performance, low-value ones.

But, when to pull the plug? (Or, where is the dotted line?) And why does a feature get used or not? Low usage could point to the fact the feature was, in total, a dud. Or, it could be poor placement. Or unclear copy. Or a usability problem. It is easy to say that the something was just a dud, but pulling the plug could be a hasty decision. I'm inclined to spent at least some time focusing on our execution of a feature before I pull the plug. In a recent case, we spent time redesigning a feature and altering it's layout in an attempt to bump up usage. Turned out that a before/after analysis showed that the changes didn't really make that much of a difference. So, I think we're going to yank the feature. But, I think it was worth the time to experiment with the execution before giving up on the concept.