My Kingdom for a Back Button

Why simple feature requests aren't so simple.

We all think we know what we want. On occasion, we're actually right about what that even is. But usually when we ask for something we fail to articulate what we really want. My daughter does this when she argues with me.

"Can I go to the mall?"


"Come ON, I really want to go to the mall!"

False. What she really wants is to hang out with her friend and the mall is simply one version of doing that.

She used to latch onto the means without understanding that what she really wanted was the ends. We would go around in circles a few times before we got to the core of what she was asking for, at which point it was determined that a change of venue was all I wanted and she'd get her wish. Now, a good father might have suggested that for her, but I wouldn't want to rob her of the satisfaction of psychological discovery. She'll thank me when she's older.

What does this have to do with anything? I find the same patterns of psychology when I browse some of the feature requests that come in for Fulcrum. Even when the same feature gets upvoted by dozens of users, it's a good bet that many of them have a completely different workflow in mind for it. Without diving deeper into what they're actually asking for, our assumptions are only slightly better than guesswork.

I sent a cheeky tweet about the recently released email service, Hey:

While this is far from a real feature request, it isn't far off from what you get if you take feedback at face value. This fact was driven home recently when I discovered that there was, indeed, a back button in Hey. It just wasn't where I wanted it. Se la vie.