Beware: The Developer Trap

I waste inordinate hours of my time reading through the lively discussions over on the Joel On Software forums. A lot of developers hang out there. It’s interesting to see quite regular postings cropping up about ideas to develop all manner of technical or developer-centric ideas.

And that’s precisely why many of the folks on there will struggle.

You can easily be blinded by your own problems and annoyances. As a developer, this is an all too common trap. Not happy with that limited functionality in your RSS reader? You’re a developer, just write your own! Annoyed with graphs in your web traffic analysis software? Hey, just write your own.

And that’s precisely what you do.

Having the capabilities, you can simply rush off and develop technical solutions to your own technical problems. Along the way, you’ll worry about whether you’re using the right programming language, whether your end-user will have .NET installed, and whether your UI looks Web 2.0 enough.

In the vast majority of cases this approach is, I’m afraid, simply broken right from the start.

By targeting the developer/technical sector, you’ve effectively just reduced your potential market to about 1% (I’m being generous) of the size it could have been. Well done. And of that 1%, many of those folks are also developers and will think they could develop a better solution themselves!

If you do somehow manage to pull off an amazing job of marketing your uber-widget, you might actually manage to interest some non-techy buyers. In fact, you should stop those high-fives because now you’re really, really screwed! Before, you could rely on techy-types knowing what they were doing. Now you’re dealing with *gasp* normal people.

Normal people simply haven’t got a clue about FTP, cookies, caching, DOS prompts, or security. They will break your software, they will tell you nothing (of any real use), they will send you on wild goose chases, and they will most certainly expect it to be fixed. Pronto!

So, before you start dusting off your favourite development IDE and writing your own flavour of RSS aggregator, just remember to watch out for that big nasty developer trap!

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