The price of shipping is imperfection. If you wait for your product to be perfect, you’ll never finish it. Fortunately you can decide which features should be closer to perfect and which can slack off a little. The Kindle DX is a good case in point. Reading and flipping pages on the Kindle is a wonderful experience. On the other hand, using the keyboard is painful. The keys are hard to press. The modifier keys are confusing. Mistakes are easy to make, slow to spot and hard to correct. Yet despite all these problems, I still love the device.

A good way to square the great overall experience with a bad feature is the “suckage to usage” ratio. You can take any feature and say “it sucks,” but that doesn’t tell you anything about the whole product until you factor in how often you use the feature. Have a look at this unscientific chart.

Feature Suckage (1-5) Usage Contribution (1-5)
Reading 0 90% 0
Typing 5 3% 0.15
Switching books 1 7% 0.07
Total suckage 0.22

Suppose reading on the Kindle doesn’t suck at all (0 out of 5), typing sucks maximally (5 out of 5), and switching between books sucks a little (1 out of 5). Considering I spend 90% of my time just reading on the device, the contributions add up to a total suckage of only 0.22 out of 5. Inverted, that’s 4.78—basically a 5-star product.

It’s rational for the Kindle designers to skimp on the keyboard when every feature takes time and time is scarce. Maybe the third or fourth generation Kindle will change such that keyboard input becomes more important. Pressures do change over time. But for now, it’s a fair trade.

It’s easy to accept in theory that some parts of your own product won’t be up to standard. In practice, it’s hard to drop the sword. Nobody wants to release a feature that you know could be better. When this happens, try adding a factor of usage to the equation to see if perfection is really worth its price.