I’m live blogging. Qwilr is on the eve of a big product release. Probably the biggest release since the product made its public debut. The release will mark a turning point in the whole trajectory of the product and the business. The engineering team is flicking between terminal screens, with anxious excitement, monitoring server metrics: “All looking good”. It took a lot of work, a lot of midnights-at-the-office to get here – but for all that hard work, there’s one thing that made the crucial difference: murder. Yes, I confess, murder. The Qwilr team has done a lot of murdering to get to our product launch and I couldn’t be happier.
Kill Your Darlings
In literary fiction “Kill your darlings” is a common piece of advice. It’s a fun way of saying: don’t let your ego get in the way of clear prose and good storytelling.
Like a lot of the best advice, it’s formulation is deceivingly simple. You hear it over and over, and you know, at least intellectually, that it is patently and unarguably true. Yet it still takes many years to fully appreciate and properly absorb that truthiness.
Humans are funny like that. There is a marked difference between knowing something, and really knowing it.
You can find the “kill your darlings” idea expressed in just about every field and discipline. In design and architecture you are warned against letting form get in the way of function. In poetry or song-writing, craftsmanship and a fondness for language itself, can easily get in the way of expressing something human and honest. Heck, even in the writing of a television series, there are those strange subplots that make no discernible contribution to the overall narrative arc (see “Lost”, Season 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… etc.).
Murder the extraneous. Simple advice, but hard to follow.
Software: The Double-Edged Sword.
The same is certainly true of building products and product businesses.
Despite all best efforts and intentions not to build things the market doesn’t really want – we often, and somewhat inescapably, do so.
The whole movement towards the “lean” philosophy of entrepreneurship, is not about circumventing these mistakes all together (it rightly accepts false paths as the inevitable result of incomplete market knowledge), but rather focuses on accelerating the mistakes-and-learning process to arrive at the correct market thesis as quickly as possible.
Again: simple and sensible advice to formulate, but difficult to practice.
In building digital products one is especially susceptible. Unlike a physical product business, where modifications or new features can require lengthy lead times to orchestrate the manufacturing process, digital businesses are liberated by the malleability and immediacy of software. Don’t like the way Thing X looks? Well write some code, re-design it, ship it and the New And Shiny X can be live in production the same day.
But this malleability is a double edged sword. There is a danger lurking in all this freedom. And that danger is that we get lax about murdering our darlings. We allow features and ideas to persist, when they ought be graciously put to sleep.
Here at Qwilr HQ, we’ve erred like any other product team. We’ve built features whose market appeal didn’t correlate with our theoretical models. I’ve definitely nursed a bruised ego, poring over our internal analytics and realising: “Wow, no one is actually using [Insert My Brilliant Feature]”.
But the Qwilr team keeps our users front and centre. And for their collective good, we have murdered features. We’ve guillotined ideas. We’ve filleted concepts.
Now a lot of love goes into designing, coding, reviewing, marketing and promoting product features. And killing them off can indeed be painful.
But you know, once it’s done, much like throwing out that sentimental junk that accrues in our closets (“Can I bear to part with my pencil case from first grade?”), there is an immediate lightness of spirit that follows – and a knowledge that it was unequivocally the right thing to do.
Because once you’ve cleared out that space, excised the noise from the signal, you can focus on what really matters. In a product business what really matters is building out and improving upon features that make big, positive impacts.
For A Product’s Greater Good.
Now I realise this is an unusual and perhaps roundabout way (wait, “kill your darlings”, is that irony?) to make a product announcement, but so be it.
At Qwilr HQ our mission is to combine the best parts of documents, with the best parts of the web. To date, we’ve been focusing on the presentational aspect of that mission. We wanted to help people and businesses create impressive content and do it quickly. To that end, Qwilr allows users to create beautiful self-hosted websites in a matter of minutes. That meant building out the document tools folks were already used to but adding image libraries, content styles, video, templates and powerful quoting tools – all packaged into in an interface that was easy and accessible for anyone, technical and non-technical alike, to use. We’ve had an awesome response so far, with thousands and thousands of companies all around the world using Qwilr.
With this new release however, we want to make more of the web’s connective and interactive power available and tangible through the app. Qwilr pages are no longer just about presenting beautiful content, but can now facilitate business transactions and rich data capture.
A quick roundup of the features we’re debuting:
- A powerful new analytics system and dashboard.
- A much-requested Accept feature for our quoting tool.
- Digital signatures.
- Audit trails.
- A Slack integration (we heart Slack!)
- And integrations with accountancy platforms like Xero and Freshbooks.
This is a release that myself and the whole Qwilr team are genuinely proud of. We’ve worked long and hard to make it a truly awesome experience – and we hope you enjoy it!
CEO and Co-Founder @ Qwilr.