60 second Deadlines

Wed, May 7, 2008

Simplicity Rules

This post is part of a series about Designing the Obvious, a book about common sense Web application design. Learn more about this series.

As long-time readers know, I love time-boxing tricks: POWER HOUR, 4 day work week, 7 day product. Working within artificial constraints can make things easier on you and simpler for your users/customers.

Separate the nice-to-have features from the essential

Designing the Obvious has another trick you can add to your arsenal: the 60-second deadline. Here’s the scenario:

“The project timeline has been cut in half. We have about 60 seconds o decide what to keep and what to throw away before we meet with the client in the conference room.”

The author recommends writing all your features on a piece of paper, then starting the clock. You have 60 seconds to draw a line through the features you don’t absolutely need.

If there’s any doubt, cross it out.

The 60 second deadline is a great method to trim to the barest essentials. The first law of Simplicity is to reduce.

The 80/20 Rule

80/20 rule explained

What happens to all those crossed out features? They go on the “nice to have” list. Maybe you’ll get to them later. For most, you will likely realize they weren’t really that nice-to-have.

“Yes, some of the remaining 80% of your features may be useful somehow, to someone, some of the time, but they are most likely useless to 80% of your users, 80% of the time. And you probably spent 80% of your development time building things that aren’t that essential to your application.”

What the book is describing is the 80/20 rule, or Pareto Principle. It says the first 80% of functionality can be built with 20% of the time it would take to finish the entire application. That leaves 80% of your time to finish those few pesky 20% of features… the ones that will be used least by the fewest people and may only add more complexity to your core feature set. That isn’t worth it.

How do you determine what is or isn’t important? What do you think about asking users to do the crossing out? Share your thoughts below and I may be able to share an autographed copy of Designing the Obvious with you. I’ll be randomly picking three people from everyone who commented during my series.

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  1. Simplicity Rules » Designing the Obvious is my new best friend Says:

    […] 60 second Deadlines […]

  2. Simplicity Rules » Create Some Ground Rules Says:

    […] How do you decide what features to include in a new product? The simple answer is to reduce to only the essentials. That’s a lot of what I write about here, so there are many methods, such as the 60 second deadline. […]

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