There was an interesting movie from when I was younger that I sometimes think of when I work with people on product management concepts. Many of us know the 80/20 rule about effort and whatnot, but what about in terms of adoption? Can you add one feature too much that hurts adoption? I think you can.
Final Fantasy is a very long-running series of role-playing video games for those of you not deep in video game culture. They are epic in their scope, and people spend hundreds of hours playing, replaying, and exploring them. I did this too up through high school.
For the record, Final Fantasy 7 is the greatest one.
At some point, they made a movie. This movie was named Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. It got attention for two reasons. One was the association to the franchise, and the second is that it attempted to make a full-length ultra-realistic movie entirely of CG.
It was an absolute flop, and people found it awkward to watch.
Animators learned a long time ago that you have to either get it perfect or keep it absurd when it comes to representing humans. In other words, they applied the 80/20 rule to represent humans.
They knew that if you kept them to like 80%, human nobody would care and find endearing characteristics about that character and their representation. Think of the squarish boxy main character from Up. However, when you cross the 80% line and go up just a little, people only see how they aren’t human and reject it.
This is what happened with Final Fantasy. The CG was incredible, but its imperfection caused people to only see that imperfection.
I work with a lot of product people who want to get things perfect. I often frustrate them when I ask them to put it in front of people in rough condition to get feedback. I do this to protect from the possibility of the product falling into Final Fantasy’s mistake.
There is a line that many people overshoot where the product is easy to adopt, helpful, and endearing in its simplicity. Great design helps with these qualities, but feature sets, configurations, convenience features tend to erode it. In other words, people add so many features that people begin to see what isn’t there and what doesn’t work instead of what does.
I suspect a few of you have bought an appliance or piece of software that is like this. It does its primary job well, but then all the other things added past that frustrate you, primarily what you see.
So when you are building your product, don’t become a Final Fantasy and strive for perfection. Launch below the 80% mark after you’ve had feedback indicating people want it. You can easily add one feature too many that then make people question the whole thing.