Depth vs Accessibility

Marine Maj. Coonan: How deep does this thing go?

Lt. Commander Mike Dahlgren: Oh, she’ll go all the way to the bottom if we don’t stop her.

U-571: Widowmaker

I’ve been playing the beta of an indie game called SpyParty. The (lone) developer of SpyParty decided to front load the complexity of the game, with the intention of adding accessibility after, a model inspired by Blizzard Entertainment:

To maximize both depth and accessibility, the company concentrates on depth first and accessibility later, Pardo said. “First we try to come up with what are really cool things, things that will get people to play for two to three years. Then we actually start talking about accessibility, how to make the content approachable and easy to learn. But it starts with depth first.”

At userfox, we took the opposite approach: we looked at solutions today and decided they were too deep and not accessible enough. We front loaded accessibility: we shipped a dead simple product and have added complexity as we mature.

The advantage of going accessibility then depth is that you can ship faster, it forces you to focus, but that is not necessarily always a good thing. userfox has struggled at times in the face of solutions with far more features, but (considerably) weaker usability.

At the end of the day the purchasing (be it a game, or a SaaS product) intent is more driven by depth over accessibility, but it’s important to note that whichever you choose first: you’re going to do both sooner rather than later.

If I went back ten months, would I take the same approach? Probably. I really believe the way to succeed is to iterate and ship as often as possible.

I don’t want to make this about shoe horning something relatively boring (SaaS product development) into something very exciting (video game development) but nevertheless this interview with the SpyParty creator is fascinating.

I suppose when I said earlier “you’re going to do both” I mean you’re hopefully going to do both.

(by the way userfox shipped A/B testing last week.)


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