Iterate until great
A digital product will go unloved for years. Somebody new comes into the organization and is tasked with the redesign. Two years and a lot of money, tears, and bruises later, a totally changed product is launched. People hate it. Sometimes the creative force behind the redesign, expecting an avalanche of applause and a Lion, can’t believe that people hate it. Traffic falls. And sometimes people get fired. Usually a few just go away. People are afraid to touch the site. A site goes unloved for years.
There’s a binge and purge cycle. It may be the case that not too many people are even that good at managing change at all. Maybe that’s a skill that isn’t too common, so it just doesn’t happen very often in the economy.
Iterate until it’s great.
Even the most simplest digital product, say, a single page of HTML can have as many as dozen variables impacting its performance. What purpose does it serve? Who is it intended for? Does it have text? What color is that text? What font? What color is the page? Is it responsive? Does it have a photo? Does it have a gif? Does it have a video? Does it have social sharing? Does it have tagging? What is the URL? Is the metadata marked up? Is it a SPA? What sort of server is it on? What is its load time? Does it have a blink tag?
And on and on and on and on and on and on.
When you inherit a website, all of those variables come set at some default. As is the behavior of the customer/market. You have an existing system of design and technology that is generating a stream of data (and hopefully returns). This is a great problem to have. At least you got a flow of data. Think of all the people launching businesses without such a flow!
What’s the point of changing it?
“It looks dated” isn’t exactly a point. Nor is, “I want to”, or “I want to win awards” or, “this is my ticket out of this dump”. Those might be terrific personal goals, but that isn’t really persuasive.
The point is to improve some metric. A goal. An optimization objective. Some indicator that is perhaps….indicative of….performance.
So, what you want to change, the process of continuously improving that digital product, is a function of the outcomes you expect to see. And, ideally, your expectations are aligned with what you prefer to see.
There are a large number of features that may be tested on. You may have a theory about why the system performs the way that it does. That theory may have some incredibly risky assumptions. It may be a very good idea to get those tested early so you have more time to adjust. The great news is that if you already have a product, you can test directly on that flow of data!
It’s possible to plan it out and iterate on the system.
As for the constant need for recognition from industry peers or fulfilling a board promise, it is very possible to gradually increase the rate of learning as fundamental infrastructure is wheeled into place. Ta-da’s moments can be realized when the feature exposure rate goes from 2% to 100%. If glory is really what is getting pursued, iteration doesn’t mean being completely robbed of it.
A great release may be a killer feature that you’re bringing out of private-alpha. It may be the unveiling of a half dozen killer features all getting released out of alpha at the same time.
Glory can still be had. Iterating towards it makes it much more likely to happen and tilts the odds in your favor.