For everyone

There are two ways to design a product for the widest possible audience. In other words, for everyone.

  • Focus on all the things that anyone needs, call it the set union approach, or
  • Focus on only the things that everyone needs, call it the set intersection approach

The former may lead to a great product that everyone has a use for. But often it leads to products that no one loves. It has too many unwanted features cluttering the experience for most users. And developing and maintaining all those features adds complexity and delays.

The latter leads to simple products. They don’t fulfill all the needs for anyone. But they fulfil some needs for everyone, without adding any clutter they need to deal with constantly. Not having to deal with the special features, and exceptional cases also makes them easier to develop and maintain.

In terms of modern software product development, the union approach is easy for product managers and business owners – add a feature for every target audience’s needs. It’s harder for designers and developers to cram and maintain that complexity. The intersection approach makes it easier for designers and developers, but it’s much harder for product managers and business owners. They need to fend off the pulls from every special interest and stake holder.

The driving thought needs to stay – keep true to the common thread that binds everyone, ignore the special cases.

Aside: I feel the app store & plugins approach is useful for this. The OS out the software platforms can focus on the core needs of everyone. Third party apps and plugins can provide the additional needs of anyone.

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