Do One Thing Well

What makes a good product? The most important aspect of any product is that it does at least one thing well. If it is a cleanser, it gets things clean. If it’s a knife, it cuts things cleanly and stays sharp. You get the idea.

Some products try to do many things well, for example a Swiss Army knife. It is the epitome of the one product does everything category to the extent that it has become an adjective to that effect in the marketing field. I used to carry a Swiss Army knife and I found it extremely useful. Perhaps the reason was that the makers of it had clearly identified their key feature, to do a number of things adequately in a compact package. Suffice it to say, it still does one thing really well. It cuts things, just like a knife is supposed to.

When it comes to software, the same philosophy was behind the popular Unix (and later Linux) operating system. The idea was to have a number of small programs that did one thing really well, weren’t finicky about where their input came from, and produced clean, simple streams of text as output, streams that were easily routed to other utilities to be further processed as input.

While many programs follow the philosophy of simplicity, many succumb to creeping featuritis. Many of the office suites are good examples of what I’m talking about. They try to be everything to everyone and end up being frustrating to use to everyone instead.

There is a third category of program, analogous to the Swiss Army knife. It knows it’s audience and has a clear focus on its primary purpose but it also caters to other things that its core audience might want from a program.

A good example of this is the program Scrivener. It is a program that is targeted at writers. It allows them to keep all the components of their creation in one place. It has a place for keeping clippings from research and notes on characters and locations. It also allows you to view your words as individual sections, chapters, or entire books. It has the equivalent of a cork board so you can rearrange your ideas without drowning in the details of what you’ve written so far.

But the most important feature is, it’s easy to sit down and write with it. You don’t have to learn how to use all the bells and whistles, just the ones that are relevant to you and your project. And when you do find you need a feature that you haven’t used before, there is a very well written manual complete with illustrations, You Tube videos showing exactly how various features work, and online forums where you can ask for help directly from another human being.

I am biased, being both a writer and a satisfied customer, but I honestly think they have grasped the wisdom of doing one thing well. Their reputation in the writing community certainly lends credence to that assertion. If you’re an aspiring writer you might want to give it a try. They give you a one month trial period and it’s not a calendar month either. It’s a month of actual use so you could, for example, use it today and then not touch it for three weeks and you would have only used up one day of your free trial. Recommended.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.