The 80% Use Case

The other day I realized I carry my MacBook most of the time in my cheap carrying bag instead of my super sexy notebook bag. After I thought about it for a few minutes I had the solution: the 80% use case.

Know what your product does

You probably know by now that I am a huge fan of the KISS principle. As such I live by the core idea of the Unix philosophy: a product should do one thing and do it well. Allow me to explain. Recently I thought about watches quite a bit. Now what do you use your watch for? Looking up the time? There’s your 80% use case.

The problem with that is that watches these days often look like this: Google Image Search for Chronograph. What you are looking at are watch dials that are crampt with at least 3 extra mini-dials. Often this leads to extremly bad readabilty. There simply are too many hands, numbers and symbols. User experience suffers.

Many watches are stuffed with functionality nobody ever uses. In turn they sacrifice usability and neglect the 80% use case. Never neglect the 80% use case. The 80% use case is the meat and potatoes. It might not be fancy but it gets the job done and at the end of the day it’s what sells your product.

Know what your product does not

One of the worst things that can happen to you is feature creep. Basically it means you try to enhance your solid solution with features until nobody wants/knows how to use it anymore.

Remember your elevator pitch. Does your product still really do what you pitched? Or did you make some tradeoffs to introduce features to “make your product more desireable”? Tradeoffs are extremly dangerous. If you face the decision to trade off core usability to introduce a new feature think hard — really hard: Is it worth it?

I’d like to bring up Twitter as an example here. Twitter is an extremly simple service. It allows to send 140 character long messages. That’s it. Numerous external serviecs have sprung up that extend the core functionality of Twitter. URL shortening, image sharing, compilation of tweets into stories and more. Yet Twitter itself to this day is still only a text box and a send button. They kept it simple. And it works.

Improving your product

So what can you do to actually improve your product? Work on immproving the 80% use case. What is the pain you make go away with it? How can you make it even simpler to make said pain go away? Or perhaps there actually is a feature that would improve the user experience by contributing to the pain relieving qualities of the product.