The product of a web developer with a little too much caffeine

Software Design For Audiences – General versus Specific

with 4 comments

So here is the problem — I’ve got limited key presses on my keyboard to make something awesome happen — even then, the awesome factor is debatable. I won’t be around forever so I need to build something the right way with as few mistakes as possible.

Which leads me to a problem I’ve found with every project I’ve worked on — Who is my target audience?

I know I’m not the first person to run into it, but I still have a hard time committing to a design until I’ve passed this hurdle — which I’m still stuck on as I write this.

General versus Specific

It’s a tough question. On one hand you can try to target a very broad audience — for example Yahoo Answers. You might get a lot more traffic because you cater to a much larger group of internet users. However, at the same time it seems that the more general you are, then the more competition you have — most likely with more programming resources on their side.

On the other hand you could try to hit a specific audience — for example Same general idea, but more attractive to a specific group of people because they know that the content they are going to find is going to coincide with their interests. But unless your that specific group cares then you’re left with a product that no one cares about.

Is Specific Less Competition?

I was speaking with a guy where I work at the other day and we started talking about one of his friends who made it big in software development. He made big bucks selling a software package he had designed and was living it up in style while he worked on his next project. What was the software? Office management tools? A Facebook/Myspace style application?

No — Surprisingly it was software to manage State Fairs — You know, those carnivals that show up in your city from time to time. The thing was that there wasn’t any software out there already. Instead, the market was completely empty and ready for someone to swoop in and grab up all the customers.

Does “specific” targets equal to “less competition” — I’m not really sure, but it certainly seems that way.

Still Stuck

I’m still stuck trying to decide what to do in this situation. Do I go for the bigger audience, knowing that I have a higher amounts of competition — or the specific group where I have a much higher chance missing my mark?

What do you think — which audience should be the target of programmers with limited resources?


Written by hugoware

August 3, 2009 at 1:43 am

4 Responses

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  1. I was discussing something similar with my team at work today. There are those who have been very successful with the attitude of “if you don’t get it, good – we don’t want you anyway”. No catering to the whims of customers. Take it or leave. Then there are the successful projects specifically tracked usability and created a product that satisfied many users.

    With respects to the State Fair software, sometimes you can capture a market with no competition and own. However, history is filled with stories of the second starters who study the originators mistakes, innovate and then capture market share. Sometimes winning that market is related entirely to cheaper production and not necessarily better quality.

    ActiveEngine Sensei

    August 3, 2009 at 8:09 pm

  2. You’re spot on about many competitors coming in and learning from the mistakes of those before them. They may not knock out their competitors (like MySpace/Facebook), but capture that set of people that were driven away by the “take it or leave it” attitude you mentioned.

    I see a lot of people talking about the “game their working on” (myself included) and I wonder if they realize just have HUGE the market is — most of the companies have dozens of programmers, designers, marketing, etc, people working on the product. What chance does one guy have unless they simply _nail_ it.

    That’s why I wonder sometimes about target audiences — it seems to level the playing field for the little guys.


    August 3, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    • I agree – laser like focus can be a great equalizer. 37 signals has a great online book that talks about keeping a core set of objectives that role up to one goal. They also talk about how it is good to pick an “enemy”. That is, the product that is bad that your product will be replacing.

      They also talk about reading feedback but ignoring a majority of it as it dilutes the product and muddles the goal.

      By the way, Nate Kohari – Ninject IoC guy – has launched a product called Zen – Agile Kanbahn story boards. There is a great interview with him at One man shop who has created a product in .Net and is making a go of it. It’s great podcast.

      ActiveEngine Sensei

      August 3, 2009 at 9:55 pm

      • I’ll check it out — Always love a good podcast!


        August 3, 2009 at 10:06 pm

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