One of our major objectives this year is to take some big chances with LockerPulse. We want to know if it’s a viable business, and if so, how viable. Is it a profitable side project or is it something much much bigger?
While it’s been almost two years since it launched, we were unable to give it the attention we planned on during 2011 due to the yearlong chaos. So we made it completely free and collected as much data as we could.
At the end of last year, we sat down and decided that we were going to throw some serious resources towards it in 2012 (having two new full-time employees helps with that). While reviewing the data to summarize for my partners, I was awestruck at just how much useful data and how much useful customer feedback we had accrued. We had managed to build a pretty successful website despite never really marketing it. The data told this wonderful story of things that were working better than expected, things that were working about as well as we thought they were, and things that just flat out weren’t working.
When armed with such a valuable pile of data, combined with our love and passion for making it a great product, coming up with a plan was pretty simple. The data didn’t “cost” anything other than the cost of running the site, but it was like we had paid for the most expensive market research available.
So, we decided that to build the LockerPulse that we’ve envisioned (and that our customers seem to have told us that they want), we’d have to blow most of it up and start from scratch, particularly the UI.
I realized that as a business owner or as a developer I’ve never before entered such a large project with so much good information available. It creates a sense of confidence in what you’re developing. It eliminates a lot of the risk of the unknown when building something new.
We’re about half way done with the project. One of the things we’ve constantly stressed throughout is a renewed commitment to the basics. People seem to love LockerPulse for what it is – a better way to get news for your favorite sports teams and players. Heck, I love LockerPulse for that. So there’s no sense in trying to add a bunch of fancy features. What most people tell us they want is for the core functionality to just work better, and that’s what the focus is on.
When we launch and you see a feature list, I hope you think “that’s all they added!?!?” And in actuality, when you see what we’ve cut, the net feature set will be about a push. But then I hope you’ll play with it for five minutes and say “wow, everything works so much better, it’s much cleaner, smoother, faster, more accurate”. We did an internal beta test with Greg, Charlie, and Reece, who previously hadn’t seen any part of the new site, and that was their exact reaction.
If you told me in late 2009 when we started working on LockerPulse that we’d still be working on the basics I would have laughed at you. News aggregation? How hard is that? As it turns out, doing that one thing incredibly well is incredibly challenging.
Stick to what’s truly essential. Good ideas can be tabled. Take whatever you think your product should be and cut it in half. Pare features down until you’re left with only the most essential ones. Then do it again.
It sounds so simple, but it’s so hard to execute.