Response to my previous post has been wonderful. Ben Zotto, the creator of Penultimate, blogged about it yesterday, and Daring Fireball picked it up as well, highlighting the bit about generalizing my specific need (storyboarding templates) into a general suggestion (user-customizable papers that are easy to share). “Good way to think about feature requests” comprised Gruber’s customary dense morsel of commentary.
Which commentary inspired Ben to craft a must-read post on how a good developer listens to customer feedback, and how a user can best make their case for new features. Hint: It’s not about feature requests.
I’ll give you an example from Penultimate. Early versions of the app had the eraser function, but the eraser was a fixed circular size (about the size of a fingertip). I got lots of feedback asking for selectable eraser sizes (small, medium, large). That was the feature request: “add other eraser sizes.” But more eraser options, as such, was not what these users were really asking for, which was usually a way to do detailed erasing in small areas. Instead of complying with the letter of the request, I like to think I did one better, which was to make the eraser size dynamic. There’s still just one eraser, but if you’re working in a detailed area, it’s tiny. If you make huge swipes, it’s large.
That’s the difference between an elegant app that just works and a Homer Car of faithfully implemented features reflecting no singular vision. Read Ben’s entire post here, and think about it the next time you get inspired to make a “feature request.” I know I will.
Update 2015-01-06: When Evernote acquired Penultimate, they sadly took down Ben's Coacobox blog. The links in this post now point to the Internet Archive copies.