Many years ago I read an academic paper that talked about why the Apple Lisa (you won’t remember it) failed. The paper put it down to the three Fs: functionality, functionality and functionality. This is quite a witty point, and indeed the amount of new startup websites one sees that don’t actually say what the app is supposed to do because they’re trying to persuade their confused potential customers to tell them what they want is a testament to the idea.

There is a problem with this view, though. People who use your stuff don’t want functionality, they want capability. They have a problem they want to solve and you’re offering them a way to either get rid of it or manage it down to tolerability. The Lisa didn’t allow people to do things they needed to do. The Mac, later, was originally the only platform that did desktop publishing well and reasonably affordably (compared with the price of a conventional printing studio).

So, when you’re doing your interviews and looking for user pain you can meet you need to understand that pain isn’t functionality, it’s capability. So even making a hard thing a little easier to do is worthwhile. This changes your perspective on what you can and should deliver.

As with a lot of engineering type problems, take a step back, think about what the wider picture is. It’s always a valuable exercise.