Code and design are no longer bottlenecks

The number one reason that’s stopping aspiring software entrepreneurs is the thought that they’ll eventually have to build the product they envision and have no idea how to make it happen.

But this fear of building is nowadays completely unjustified. Long gone are the times when code and design were the bottlenecks. The dirty little secret most developers don’t want you to know is that you can easily build a minimum viable product using no-code tools or hire someone cheaply. And even if you want to build your product yourself, there isn’t much you have to learn before you can build something solid. One might even go as far as saying that “code is the least important thing about a SaaS business”.

Of course, many developers will try to make you believe that coding is still an immensely difficult task that’s better left to a priestly caste. They will throw all kinds of jargon around and argue that a three-year-long curriculum is necessarily before you can build something useful. They will try to convince you to use bloated tools and to follow unnecessarily complex principles. After all, that’s the only way they can sustain their expert status.

Don’t get me wrong. Certainly not all programming tasks are simple and coding is definitely a skill that needs years to master. However, the first few versions of 99.9% of all products don’t require expert-level skills. And even if, against all odds, your product becomes so big of a success that more sophisticated technologies become necessary, that’s a great problem to have! At this point you’ll have enough money to hire someone or enough motivation to rewrite it properly yourself. In contrast, if you polish each product right from the start so that it could, hypothetically, be served to millions of users simultaneously, chances are high that you’ll never reach that stage anyway.

If you try to build your humble software analogous to how people build enterprise software, you are almost certain to fail. Your code might be scalable, readable, and overall beautiful but it will take you far too long to get to a point where you can sell something useful. Hence, you’ll run out of money and time before you get your first customers.

Your customers simply don’t care about how your codebase looks. It can be a huge mess. All they care about is that the product works as promised. Your software has exactly two purposes: 1. to make your customers happy and 2. to make you money. Whether or nother other coders admire or abhor your codebase is simply not part of the equation.

Similar things can be said about design. For most purposes established design frameworks like Bootstrap or Tailwind are completely sufficient and no expert-level design skills are necessary to create an acceptably-looking product. In fact, you should only make sure that your design is good enough. Everything else is most likely a distraction. In most cases, a better design won’t make your customers significantly more happy and won’t help you earn more money.

While full-time designers and coders might not like to hear this, for entrepreneurs this is great news.

Of course, successful entrepreneurship is still far from easy. However, instead of four bottlenecks, there are just two left:

  • Ideation (i.e. coming up with great ideas that are worth executing) and
  • Marketing.

This is what software entrepreneurs nowadays should focus on.

Written on July 23, 2020
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