Need someone to lead product or development at your software company? I lead product and engineering teams and I'm looking for my next opportunity. Check out my resume and get in touch.

The danger of doing too much

Freshness Warning
This article is over 14 years old. It's possible that the information you read below isn't current.

Deane asked his readers how to provide clients with an easy way to update a small portion of a static site. His particular example is a company who keeps adding and removing locations from their "Where to Buy" list. Apparently he’s got a lot of sites that need some sort of simple updates but don’t warrant a lot of custom programming because he’s toying with the idea of building a application framework that would let him handle these mini apps easily and asks his readers for ideas.

One person suggests using Wordpress or another lightweight CMS to manage these pages. Deane responds

This is great for things that fit that data model, but what about things that don’t? What if they want to maintain a list of Supreme Court cases, complete with about 10 extra fields of data.

I suggest Deane would probably want to start looking at a custom web app at that point. The stated goal of the framework is to allow a simple customer-editable section without requiring lots of custom programming. The list of Supreme Court cases sounds more complex than that.

Developers run the risk of doing too much when they spec an application. They start looking at all the possible edge cases for their app and trying to incorporate them. This leads to a sort of analysis paralysis where the design becomes so complicated that nothing gets built.

Start simple. Look at the problem you have and solve it. Don’t start thinking about how this isn’t going to solve X or Y. Solve one problem and iterate. Another case comes up that doesn’t fit in? Iterate. Design your framework to be flexible enough to handle iterations, but don’t over-design. You’ll never get anything done that way.

Be simple.

And for Deane’s original problem of letting a customer update a list of locations without requireing lots of validation routines and such, I’d suggest something simple. Give them a text field that overwrites a file. The web page reads that file and displays it. Perhaps add Markdown or Textile processing to the file if they want fancy formatting options. Five minutes of programming work and the customer’s happy.

December 15, 2005 11:12 AM

Providing the Supreme Court example was a huge generalization. As the rules I stated in the post indicate, I'm talking about a single table of data -- one table, a set number of columns, a bunch of rows -- with CRUD functionality. Could you do a simple table like this to list Supreme Court rulings on a particular topic? Absolutely -- a potential client actually asked me for this once, and I mapped it out on a napkin. But you pick your data. Let's go back to the "locations" example -- I'm very partial to a generalized app with SQLite as a backend, so it's all self-contained. (And, dude, when you put two n's in my name, I become a woman. "Dee-anne.")

Timothy Appnel
December 15, 2005 2:12 PM

Agreed. Throw Xinha[1] in with that text field that overwrites a file and your set. [1]

This discussion has been closed.

Recently Written

A framework for onboarding new employees (May 15)
There’s no single good way to onboard an employee that works for every role. Here's a framework for creating a process that you can adapt to each situation.
TV hosts as a guide for software managers (May 10)
Software managers can learn a lot from journalists or late night TV hosts and how they interview people.
The Improvement Flywheel (Apr 29)
An incredible flywheel for the improvement of a development team. Fix a few things, and everything starts getting better.
Managers and technical ability (Dec 26)
In technical fields, the closer you are to the actual work being done, the closer your skills need to resemble those of the people doing the work.
Dysfunctions of output-oriented software teams (Sep 17)
Whatever you call it, the symptom is that you're measuring your progress by how much you build and deliver instead of measuring success by the amount of customer value you create.
Evaluative and generative product development (Aug 30)
Customers never even talk to the companies that don't fit their needs at all. If the only product ideas you're considering are those that meet the needs of your current customers, then you're only going to find new customers that look exactly like your current customers.
Product Manager Career Ladder (Aug 19)
What are the steps along the product management career path?
Building the Customer-Informed Product (Aug 15)
Strong products aren't composed of a list of features dictated by customers. They are guided by strong visions, and the execution of that vision is the primary focus of product development.


What I'm Reading


Adam Kalsey

+1 916 600 2497


Public Key

© 1999-2020 Adam Kalsey.