“Side effects of developing for yourself” is an interesting piece by Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper (a simple tool to save web pages for reading later).

In it, Marco talks about how features only get developed if he wants to use them. That means a big NO to the following: unread-count icon badge, tags, full-screen reading (where you tap to temporarily show the toolbars), comments, and Graphical Mode (“It’s one of those features that people say they want until they actually use it and realize that it’s not worthwhile at all.”)

Does this mean he’s not listening to customers? No, he’s just not letting them steer the product.

I try to minimize ways for my customers to shoot themselves in the foot…If I let users steer product decisions, the result would be a massive codebase producing a bloated, cluttered product full of features that hardly anyone used at the expense of everyday usability and polish on the features that matter. Like Microsoft Word. Or Firefox.

Great to hear about Marco’s strong point of view. And I can vouch personally for the results: Instapaper is the iPhone app I use the most.

On a related note, “Feature checklist dysfunction” is another post by Marco where he rails against checklist comparisons. Here he evaluates the iPhone to see whether it’s a good product:

“Sounds like a terrible product. I bet it will fail.”