Good Enough

My blog posts have been few and far between because I’ve been facedown in code for MoneyWell 1.5 and the related iPhone release. I have a feeling this won’t change anytime soon, but I’m sneaking in a quick post to fill the gap.

This development cycle has been particularly difficult for me because I’ve had to venture into some uncharted territory. My iPhone development skills are less than expert and MoneyWell 1.5 is my first Leopard application, so the changes to that development are just enough to slow me down slightly.

The combination of acquiring new development knowledge and my tendency to want to do more in a release than is necessary caused several bouts of anxiety and doubt. Stupid questions like, “Can I get all this done in time?” or “Will I get all this working together perfectly?” slice and dice my productivity. My results don’t always match up with my vision, which can lead me to mental self-mutilation.

I too often think, “This is not going to be good enough to sell enough so I can continue growing my company.” If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m borderline insane.

The fact is that there are plenty of indie Mac developers who would kill to be selling enough software to ditch their day job or drop consulting gigs. Additionally, I have probably 20 times more customers than I’ve had in any other venture I’ve started. My customer base is, for the most part, very complimentary of our products. This should be indie nirvana but then again… I’m insane, remember.

My “good enough” is most definitely well past a sane developer’s good enough. There is no reason to expect a product like MoneyWell to be as full featured as products that have been on the market five to ten years longer or are being designed by teams of developers and designers when I’m still basically a one-man shop. I tend to take every compliment as being too kind and every complaint as being right on target.

Insane.

Software development is iterative. My philosophy matches Apple’s: a subset of features should be very well executed and polished; new features won’t appear until they can be implemented cleanly; and most people only care about 20 percent of a product’s feature set. I could add dozens of new features quickly, but my user interface and flow would suffer and, for me, that isn’t good enough.

This philosophy is quite sane.

The insanity comes when I forget that I’m developing software the right way for me: balancing my work and family life while still providing a quality product for my customers. What I have planned for future releases should make 80 percent of our customers ecstatically happy and 20 percent will still wish I had done more sooner no matter what I add to the software. The fact that I don’t have every feature I have ever envisioned for MoneyWell finished today shouldn’t make me crazy—there should a product timeline for the future.

So, the bottom line is: what I’m doing is good enough to keep my software company growing and the majority of my customer base happy. I don’t need to lower my standards but I do need to reassess my expectations of what I can accomplish given that eating and sleep seem to be a necessary evil.

I have already taken steps to offload some support and even brought in help to code MoneyWell for iPhone so it can get finished soon. I should probably have been finishing a 2.0 product instead of a another minor release, but I can’t go back in time and retract promises I made. I can only watch my comments and promises for future releases.

If, like me, you’re running an indie software company, strive for excellence, polish every detail of your work, but always make sure to enjoy what you’re doing. Shipping any software is always better than coding vaporware. Chances are if you truly care about your customers and the software you deliver to them, what you’re producing—no matter how shy it is of your ultimate goals—is probably quite good enough.

Peace

15 thoughts on “Good Enough

  1. Jim

    I’m very guilty of coding vaporware consistently because I never quite get it “up to standards”

    Great read, thanks for the post!

  2. Alex Steinman

    Nice post, Kevin. Count me as one who is grateful that you take the time to add features slowly, so that the finished product isn’t full of bugs. MoneyWell has never once crashed on me. It’s light and runs smoothly.

    Kudos for seeking balance in your priorities, too.

    I’m excited about 1.5 and iPhone, but please take your time.

  3. Brian

    I hear you. On all counts. First, I am insane. I want to say “Yes, I can make that happen” to just about everything that crosses my desk. I also want everything to be excellent. And timely. And still have a personal/family life. Insane.

    It helps when my friends (and strangers) compliment me, so I will pay that forward. Your product is the best money management software I’ve ever used and your approach to business/family/time seems spot on. Sure, there are features I want (and wait with baited breath). But what you’ve got now still trumps everything else out there.

    I’m also a relatively new convert to MoneyWell (3 months?) so I don’t have the history yet where graphs, tags, forecasts, etc. would be helpful. I’m looking forward to more so that in mid-2010 I’ll (hopefully) have some more features to increase my accounting.

    And one last thing: I really appreciate your transparency. The forums, your blog, the development timeline/updates. I’m happy to be a MoneyWell user and sing its/your praises whenever I get the opportunity.

    Great job!

  4. Otto

    Keep on trucking Kevin. I’m with you man. I’m in the middle of finishing up my first indie release for the iPhone. It’s been very difficult to stay focused and avoid “slippery scope”.

    MoneyWell has been a lifeline for budgeting my financial runway. Thank you for developing it. I know good design can carry a hefty development cost, but I’m grateful you chose that route. The product is a pleasure to use.

  5. Anonymous

    Keep up the good work–new Moneywell convert here. I was using Finicity but found Moneywell inside a MacUpdate promo…”envelope” budgeting + Mac desktop app + good developer = financially literate bliss.

  6. doktahahpah

    Kevin,

    I’m sure there are numerous indie Mac/iPhone/Rails developers (like me) who would gladly contribute code, testing, or expertise, especially to a new feature we cared about in MoneyWell.

    Keep the faith; you’re doing a fantastic job on MoneyWell!

  7. Anonymous

    About a month ago, I balanced my budget for the first time. For a long time, I owned a PC and used MS Money. It had a lot of great features, but the budgeting was never very intuitive to me, and I managed to rack up considerable credit card debt through poor planning. A couple of years ago, I switched to a Mac, and I had to find a new financial management app. After some searching, I came across MoneyWell. The envelope budgeting system made sense to me, so I bought it.

    There’s no question that Money was more powerful, and there are features of Money that I miss. For my purposes, though, the most important thing is to pay down my debt and start saving. To do that, I need to have a clear picture of my cash flow, and your product is the best thing I’ve been able to find for that.

    If I were in my parents’ position and needed to track my investments or do a lot of tax planning, I think I’d still prefer MS Money. For now, though, I just need to spend less than I earn, and for that, I prefer MoneyWell hands down. There are a lot of people out there who are in the same position as I am, getting themselves into trouble with fuzzy math, and you’ve made a great product for them. The extra features will come in time.

    Thank you, and please keep up the good work.

  8. Pablo

    Keep the developement please. I’ve tested Moneywell and it’s very useful. I’ll buy both of the new applications for Mac and iPhone when they sync. 🙂

    Are you considering translating it into spaninsh for instance?

    Regards,

  9. Anonymous

    Have been using trial version of MoneyWell and love it, but I’m not purchasing it until the iphone app comes out. I’ve seen promises of it in forums and your blog for over a year? How about a real update and timeline Kevin!

  10. Anonymous

    I stopped using MoneyWell for a period of time –only because I wanted to use a financial app on my iPod Touch that could synch with a desktop app. I have made the rounds –really!– and happily/unhappily have not found a desktop app that made me as happy as MoneyWell (or saved me from my fuzzy money math). Looking forward to the iPhone app.

  11. James Cartwright (UK)

    When is the iphone version out – will be buying moneywell tonight (been a Money user for countless years but my enormous database just crashed and now as a Mac user I want a Mac product. Going to give yrs a try. But love the idea of an iphone synch.

    Great web site by the way. I want to give you my business…

  12. iaan

    I am buying Money Well when the iPhone App comes. Can’t find any other software to do what i need. Been waiting patiently for very long now…

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