The blog of Jon Bolt. UX, design & startups.

Iterating quality and scope

15 May 2012

A key challenge in product design is adequately balancing a minimal viable level of scope and quality. The distinction here is important. What you do (scope complexity) and how well you do it (quality) are really different things.

Regarding features, they can’t be thought of as simply an additive property. Extra features can easily dilute value and create confusion, as much as it can help differentiate your product. Also, countering the push for an elegantly minimal feature set, is the need to support complex, powerful tasks.

Irrespective of scope, quality needs to be maintained. If you decide to include a feature, it needs to be build with a base standard of quality.

Within a startup, this is one of the hardest things to accomplish. There’s a constant need to adapt to the requirements of customers in terms of feature development. Alongside this, there is a continual effort to raise the level of quality consistently across the product.

This leads to an inevitable friction within product planning. At what point do you start sacrificing quality for scope or visa versa? Embracing an agile approach, of using short iterations focused on measuring and learning, can help you make best use of the resources you have. But at some point, you need to pick a deliverable level of scope and quality.

But this isn’t bad. These constraints ensure a tight focus on the right strategy. It forces us to ask hard questions around value and return on investments when planning out road maps.

However, an agile approach to design and development also means you're flexible. Sometimes design only starts to happen once people start to actually use your features with their data. An agile approach means you can rapidly develop, learn and iterate both the product scope and quality. Features vs. quality is really a false dichotomy. If you stay lean and agile, you can iterate to both.

Also read... Defining Lean UX


I'm Jon Bolt, Principal UX Designer at Brightpearl and creator of bagelhint. Interested in startups, design and agile.