You shouldn’t build ‘neat’ sites

I’ve heard it and you’ve heard it.

Actually, we’ve probably both said it.

Ooooooohhhhh we should do that…it would be a ‘neat’ feature on the site.

Really, I know I’ve said it and so have you.

But it’s totally wrong. You shouldn’t add that ’neat’ feature because your client or you want it.

NEAT is a red flag on a feature

Yup, when I hear a client say a feature would be ‘neat’ to have, it’s a big red flag telling me we should probably never build that feature in to a site.

‘Neat’ is what the CEO who joins the project for one meeting says about something they want to add.

‘Neat’ is something a manager in marketing says for a pet feature.

‘Neat’ is what you say when you want to add something new and cool in the web industry.

‘Neat’ is poison to a good site.

The problem with ‘neat’

Neat is very bad, because there is almost never a reason to add the feature outside of it being neat.

You have no plan to measure it.

Users were not asking for it.

It wasn’t a pain point for your internal sales team.

So you can’t measure how ‘neat’ made you any more money. You can’t measure how it saved you more time and reduced your bottom line.

You can’t even add ‘neat’ to feature list and have a user care about it.

When I added neat

Shortly after I started building sites I got a great contract to build a job site.

We pushed what WordPress could do. We pushed what people were doing on iOS devices with WordPress.

I see features rolled out on WordPress and highlighted as pushing the limits, and I did it years ago.

You’ve never heard of it.

It was going to be the center piece of my portfolio, but it never got there.

It died a ‘neat’ death at my hands. My clients kept coming to me with more ‘neat’ features that really were technically cool, but didn’t get us closer to launch.

All our ‘neat’ features could have been added later after launch, but I never said NO.

NO is one of the best things you can tell your clients, or maybe NOT YET.

So our project died as it languished under just one more ‘neat’ feature.

I still do neat features though

Now I’m not saying you scratch off that neat feature, I’m saying that you table it till you have a better reason to do it, other than it’s ‘neat’.

You do it because you’ve figured out how to measure if it’s a useful feature.

You do it because you have users asking for it and it fits in your mission.

You do it because your sales staff is going to save lots of time by building this new site with it’s great on boarding and landing pages.

When I hear ‘neat’

Now when I hear ‘neat’ I reply with a question:

Why is this a ‘neat’ feature and how are we going to measure if it’s useful for us and our site users?

I ask that question even if I think it would be a great feature and I have already connected the dots for the question.

I ask the question to make sure that my clients have connected the dots about measuring and usefulness.

‘Neat’ is rarely done now

I also almost never roll in a ‘neat’ feature that we have really dug in to for our current phase of work. We can find a myriad of things to do on a project, many of which are awesome.

As we add more features, the longer the project is going to take.

The longer a project takes, the less likely it is ever going to launch.

So once a feature is past ‘neat’ it goes on to our list of future project items. When we launch we look at our list and pull the most important ones out for the next release.

That keeps us focused and releasing features faster for our site users.

That puts us on the path of success.

Now watch yourself and never use the word ‘neat’ talking to a client.

If a client says ‘neat’ challenge them to work through why it would be a good feature. Why is it a better feature than something else? Why is this ‘neat’ feature the most important thing that could be done at this exact moment?

Keep your projects on track and don’t get sidetracked by ‘neat’.

photo credit: pillowhead_designs cc

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