Providing the right number of options

If you want to be a bad product manager, make sure your product has lots of options. Some users might want to use keyboard shortcuts, others might want to use just the mouse, and some might want a command line interface. How can you possibly pick one that works best for everyone? You can’t! So, put all of those options in your product. Better to give customers choices than to possibly leave out someone an important customer might request.

If you want to be a good product manager, make decisions for your users rather than giving them too many choices. As much as you want to be focused on the needs of your users, there’s a point where it’s just going too far. Is your target market really going to want a command line interface? How many options do users really need for personalizing their account? Do you really need 15 different ways to turn your computer off?

Every additional choice you push to the user is one additional feature that needs to be developed — requirements written, specifications created, designs produced, code engineered, testing completed. Choices are often added not because they are deemed appropriate based on knowledge of the market and the customers, but because the product development team doesn’t know enough about the market and the customers to make a decision themselves, so they figure they’ll just let the user decide. Next time you want to add a few choices for users, ask yourself if it’s because there is an identified need that this option is solving, or if it’s because you don’t know your customers well enough to know what they would prefer.

Yes, there are times when there are legitimate reasons to provide options to customers, but by taking a close look at why you’re providing those options, you’ll be less likely to add unnecessary work and complexity for both your product development team and your customers and end users.