22 November 2016

Imagine you are in 2016, when this post was written. I just bought a new iPhone. It was a long due update. But even with my old devices, I kept iOS up to date. And so my old iPhone was running iOS 9.3.1.

The new iPhone arrived and I started setting it up. It gives me a nice option to “Set up from backup”. That’s what I was hoping for. After connecting to iTunes and selecting the backup, it all should go smoothly. But instead I was politely informed that my brand new iPhone is shipped with iOS 9.1, and to be able to restore from backup, I need to bring it up to speed with my old device.

But how hard would it be for iTunes to just download the update, apply it, and then restore from backup? From a developer perspective, not very hard. Instead, iTunes forced me to fiddle with the new iPhone and download the update OTA, as the update via iTunes was unavailable — it was stuck on the “restore from backup” screen I could not go through.

It’s not a problem, but it’s an annoyance from the company that coined the term “it just works”. And it also shows the flaws in the QA process, where the obvious, most common and the most important “welcome” use case — setting up a new iPhone — is not carefully verified and optimised at Apple HQ.

To extrapolate and validate the title of this post let me explain — I see more often than not product owners and co-founders so focused on developing their projects with new features that they: 1. stop focusing on the core feature, the Most Valuable Product; and 2. stop using the core feature and the “welcome” use case.

Several months later everyone is surprised why user onboarding “welcome” workflow is so annoying for the new users. And why these new users do not want to move further into the product. To be honest, if I was a new user, my logic would tell me that if the “welcome” path is so difficult, then god help me how hard the actual product is.

Always use your core product — try it many times, from different angles, as a new user would. If your product’s core is giving you negative feelings, and you have the urge to get into the shiny new features that will make this feeling go away — remember, your new users will have the same feeling, except they won’t make it up with the shiny new features you prepared — they will not even get there.

Always use you core product — because if you don’t like it, then be sure others won’t like it as well.

PS. It seems the brilliant feature of the App Store, where it optimises the delivered app binaries for given device to minimise its size, has a curious side effect of not being able to fully clone an old device to new — your app settings are copied, but you need to actually re-download all the binaries again (gigabytes and gigabytes of bandwidth...)