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"Do things that don't scale" and 4 Other Principles to Build Software that People Love.

How to Build It
lady pointing at data on a board
Building software that people fall in love with is difficult. For every successful startup story on Forbes or TechCrunch, hundreds of talented, driven, and well-funded teams fail to meet their users' needs. A couple of times, the problem stems from the concept of the solution itself. Great teams put so much time and effort into products that really solve core problems for their target users.

This article shares a few fundamental principles that our most successful clients have adopted to launch their products. Hopefully, you find this helpful as you build products for your users.




Understand your audience, focus on the problems they face, not the solutions they suggest.


This principle is illustrated in Henry Ford's quote, "If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." Your audience understands their problem, which is going to places faster; however, they may not understand the full range of possible solutions. Therefore, they will choose the solution that is most obvious to them.

Before you build software, you must understand the problem of your target audience. That is why the easiest problems to solve are the ones you have experienced yourself.

It's possible to solve someone else's problem. Naturally, you would interview your user to ask them about their needs and how best to solve them. In such a case, focus on the problem they face and not the solutions they suggest. If they ask for a feature, ask what problem that feature will solve for them. When you identify the problem, you can explore a range of solutions before settling on the best one.

Slack is an example of a product that solved an internal problem for the founders. Slack was built as an internal communications tool for Tiny Speck while creating the online game Glitch. However, they found the tool useful for other startups and released it. In the first six months, nearly 16,000 users registered without any advertising.




Solve the customer's core problem first and nothing else


When you have an idea, it's natural to imagine the fully-functional version of the product. It's tempting to set out building that from day one; however, it's not the smart way to start. When you create your first product, your focus should be to create a simple product that solves the core problems of your customers first and nothing else.

An example of this is Airbnb. The founders built software that only connects guests with hosts. The transaction was done offline. It allowed the founders to validate the idea, learn and iterate the solution. This is why the concept of an MVP is super important. 

It is incredibly easy to build one even without code. With no-code tools, you can have your MVP made within a week or two, depending on the complexity of the solution. You can also speed up this process by outsourcing to no-code experts from WeLoveNoCode, so you focus on validating your idea.

Here are the advantages of launching an MVP with no-code
  • You launch faster and affordably, which saves you time and money.
  • You develop a simple version of your product which the customer will find easier to understand and use
  • Fewer moving parts so you can quickly identify what works and what doesn't
  • Customer-driven product development will help you iterate to provide accurate solutions



Check out this article on steps for founders to build MVP fast and affordably without code


Create a simple and lovable user experience


When it comes to tech, the first impression your customers get will determine if your product succeeds or not. If your customer has to spend more than 5 seconds before understanding your product and cannot intuitively navigate, then the chances of success will be slim.

A simple yet delightful users experience is clean and will have a very specific call to action that can prompt users to solve their problems at first glance. One key when building software is to build your user interface around what people are already familiar with. There is no need to reinvent the wheel; use what works already.

Your user experience only begins with the product but doesn't end there. Build a product so good people talk about it. The initial success of your startup will largely depend on word-of-mouth; remember the Slack story?



Do things that don't scale


It seems counterintuitive to the whole point of building a software company, which is solving problems at scale with little or no extra cost. However, this concept was gotten from the iconic Paul Graham. It's the idea that when starting as a founder, you have to do many things manually to get customers, make them happy and improve the product.

Obviously, it is not a long-term strategy, but you must start manually and then slowly automate those repetitive tasks to get things off the ground. 

Founders who take a proactive approach to user acquisition succeed long-term. Graham shared about Stripe's strategy. Usually, when you ask a potential user, "would you like to try my product?" and they respond with a yes, most founders say, "here's my link." However, Stripe founders took a different approach. As soon as you agreed, they would ask for your laptop and have it set up for you then and there.

Another good example is Airbnb. During their host onboarding, they would get a photographer to take professional pictures of their apartments and list them on the website. In the beginning, it was a manual process, but as the company scaled and became mainstream, the process was automated and done by the property owners themselves.



Your idea may be wrong, and that could be your advantage


The truth is that if your idea was perfect, there are a hundred other people with a similar idea who could have launched and been successful at it already. 

Your idea will be perfected through a series of nuanced learnings, which is the advantage. The only difference between success and failure will be the determination and perseverance to stay through, learn, and iterate.

You could be right about the concept but be wrong about the target audience or the price point. You could be right about the message but get the communication channels wrong. The idea you envision will most likely not be the same as the optimal version of your product, so be ready to test and experiment.

When Airbnb founders built their software, they didn't get traction or investment as soon as they launched. It took a couple of redesigns and experimentation before they gained traction. The goal is not to get traction on the first try which is hardly possible. Instead, the goal is to experiment and improve as quickly as possible. Thankfully, with technologies like no-code development, building a startup and testing ideas is faster than it ever was, and success is more likely than ever.