You Can Find Me At The Epicenter

Have you ever used a product for the first time and come away a little underwhelmed? When you first got your hands on it you thought, “Sweet, a SaaS based brussels sprout delivery service, this is going to be great!”. But, for one reason or another, once you started using it, it didn’t quite live up to your expectations. After that first hands on experience you lose interest and never use it again.

The other day I watched a similar situation unfold.

It’s Christmas time, and a package came through the door for my mum. She got the scissors out, cracked the box open and took a look inside. It was a big snow globe. She gave it a shake and watched the snow fall down, as a snow globe does. But I could see her reaction; she didn’t like it.

This surprised me, I know my mum quite well, she likes snow globes. She has one on the shelf of the room I’m writing this in. This was just like her other snow globes, but bigger. Onto a winner, right? Well, not really.

So what was wrong? Why didn’t she like it? It didn’t seem cheap, and at first glance I just didn’t get it. That was until she started to explain why.

Mum went to the shelf and took down another snow globe, shook it and the snow swirled around. I still didn’t get it. From my perspective, it did the exact same thing. But for mum, the key feature of a snow globe was how long the snow swirled for. She didn’t want to keep having to pick it up and shake it, only for it to settle in a matter of seconds. After she’d explained that, it made sense.

But what happened next was interesting. This snow globe was different, it took batteries. After popping the batteries in, a fan started and the snow began to swirl around, all on it’s own. Mum was really impressed.

What had happened? One little feature. One feature that to my mum, was the epicenter.

In their book ReWork, Justin Fried & David Heinemeier talk about getting to the epicenter of your product. What is it that your product can’t live without?

“When you start anything new, there are forces pulling you in a variety of directions. There’s the stuff you could do, the stuff you want to do, and the stuff you have to do. The stuff you have to do is where you should begin. Start at the epicenter.”
—Justin Fried & David Heinemeier

They’re so right. This snow globe was pretty good, but it failed on its key feature, right? Put some batteries in however, and it was a completely different story.

It really got me thinking about building a product. The epicenter is what the customer really cares about. Make something that is well packaged, simple to use, but doesn’t nail the key feature and you’ll end up turning customers away. On the other hand, if you focus the majority of your time and effort on the key feature then you’re much more likely to not only impress your users but convert them too.

I’ll leave you with another quote from Jason Fried & David Heinemeier:

“So figure out your epicenter. Which part of your equation can’t be removed? If you can continue to get by without this thing or that thing, then those things aren’t the epicenter. When you find it, you’ll know. Then focus all your energy on making it the best it can be. Everything else you do depends on that foundation.”
—Justin Fried & David Heinemeier

Between the initial draft, edits & publishing, this blog post took a combined total of 7 hours, 38 minutes.

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