The goal for your the first release of your new product should be to be embarrassed by it. It shouldn’t be perfect, it should be good enough.
“If you’re not embarrassed by your first product release, you’ve released too late.” – Reid Hoffman, Linkedin
That’s not to say I don’t think beautifully designed products are important – they most definitely are – but you won’t know what goes into a beautifully built product until you have some data from your potential customers.
Andrew Mason at Groupon did just this when they pivoted towards their current business model:
“We took a WordPress Blog and we skinned it to say Groupon and then every day we would do a new post. It was totally ghetto. We would sell T-shirts on the first version of Groupon. We’d say in the write-up, ‘This T-shirt will come in the color red, size large. If you want a different color or size, e-mil that to us.’ We didn’t have a form to add that stuff. It was just cobbled together.”
Your first release is unlikely to get a mass market release. The odds are that not many people will see your less than perfect product.
In fact your first marketing and product development release should be fairly targeted to a subset of your target market. And it should have just enough functionality to settle some of the assumptions you’ve made. By limiting the number of people exposed to your product you also limit potential fallout until you get some data to improve it, you also increase the number of iterations you can serve to different market segments to gather further data.
You need to be able to gather enough data to know that you’re onto something and that you should invest more time and money into the project.
A few people you release to might poke fun at the work you’ve done but it doesn’t matter.
If they’re people you respect then when they see the well finished product at the other end they’ll understand the path you took.
Aim to be embarrassed.