Square One

9 Mar 2024

Square One

Starting anew is overwhelming. You kick off with clarity, but as research and ideas pile up, maintaining focus becomes a challenge. This is the essence of overengineering—excessive complexity that muddies your vision.

Starting a new project feels overwhelming; perhaps you began well, but within a few weeks of reading up on the topic, following the market, and checking competitors out, ideas began flooding in, and since then, it's been hard to focus on one thing, one thing that matters.

Overengineering is a term that indicates an after-event scenario where design or decisions are excessively complex relative to the necessary outcomes, often leading to unnecessary complications and bloat in a project.

That's what happens when you overthink, over-plan, and delay execution; you become mired in what could be rather than advancing what should be, and that is not the worst part. You might stray from the problem you set out to solve.

Which bloody feature should I focus on?

I’m trying to think with you here. You’re starting a project. You’ve done your research. You’ve overthought every aspect and made it unnecessarily complex. It’s time to return to square one; what is the problem again? Ah! Good that you recall.

In my case, I wanted to promote individuals and businesses through genuine content of their own experiences in hopes of helping others who are walking or want to walk the same path.

That was me. I still ask myself what problem that solution fixes. I already said in previous writings that writer.sh is the creation of my unconscious search for something to make me see the future of a service I’m offering. (Link the blog here). I was demotivated and desperately looking for a shed of light.

Good, I’m back to the start, discarding all the fancy overthinking. I have a problem; the next step would be to pick the smallest possible buildable, validatable part of it and define the target audience. This means zeroing in on a specific aspect of the project that directly addresses a need, crafting content that reflects this focus, and reaching out to those who stand to benefit most from what I have to offer.

That is, writing a few pieces and promoting them through social media by explicitly targeting fellow starting entrepreneurs, ensuring each piece is insightful, relatable, and offers real value to those embarking on their journeys.

Next, the path isn't entirely clear. I have some ideas about where it might lead, but I'm open to letting the journey evolve organically. For now, my focus is on crafting and sharing compelling content, trusting that this will pave the way forward.

Pick something that can be validated

In contrast to writing and promoting content, there are other avenues potentially requiring less work and time to deliver to users, but they may not validate the core purpose of writer.sh. It’s essential to select a direction that not only saves time but also truly verifies and reflects the platform’s intended impact and value.

In other words, I had to pick the thing whose metrics would accurately inform me of my progress in solving the problem and not choose a path that might comfort me with deceptive, if not entirely vain, numbers. It’s about genuine impact over superficial success.

There is a wide array of metrics you can collect through tools like Google Analytics, Hotjar, feedback, or by observing user behavior, among others. But the most important is your definition of a conversion event. For instance, at one point, mine was the time spent on an article along with a “more like this” button click; yours might be someone creating an account.

Bear in mind that a conversion event might consist of many actions/steps, so make sure not to judge the final result without being mindful of the measure of the conversion. This means considering each step's contribution to the overall goal and recognizing that a seemingly small action can be a significant indicator of user engagement and interest.

But what if the metrics told you this isn't working? Good, you've just validated that your solution or part of it isn't suitable and needs a course correction or change. Remember, everything you did up to this point was based on an assumption, and those metrics have now demonstrated that your assumption was incorrect. This is not a failure but a crucial learning step, guiding you toward a more effective and tailored strategy.

Not entirely a bad thing…

Speaking from an optimistic viewpoint, I must say that the considerable time I invested in trying to perfect the plan wasn't entirely without its benefits. Indeed, this process was quite enlightening; I know what can be, where I currently stand now, and where I can stand in the future. However, I must also say that dedicating too much time to such planning can yield diminishing returns, steering you away from your intended path and eventually causing you to lose your way.

To avoid the trap of overengineering, start by clearly defining the problem you’re solving. Write it down in one sentence. Next, list the features you believe are necessary. Then, challenge each feature by asking, “Does this directly contribute to solving the core problem?” If not, it’s a candidate for removal. Continually seek feedback from your target audience and/or use a tool that can collect metrics, like conversion rate, and be willing to pivot or strip down features based on their input.