The 80/20 rule is a great way to model your thinking during software development, but what exactly does it mean?
In essence, you should focus on developing the 20% of your overall functionality that the vast 80% majority of your users will actually use. The numbers may not be as evenly split as 80/20, but the rule rings true for a reason with how close the real numbers will be!
When you use the 80/20 rule to guide you in software development, you stand the best chance of maximising your return on investment by targeting the most profitable 20% of your project, and managing your development time as effectively as possible.
The 80/20 rule originated with Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, first dubbed the Pareto principle as he observed that around 80% of the land in Italy was owned by only 20% of the population. Once he applied this principle to further areas of economy, wealth and ownership, it became clear that the 80/20 distribution split was extremely common.
Fast-forward to today, the 80/20 rule is now a proven model of how several industries and practices continue to operate; 80% of sales come from 20% of customers, 80% of returns come from 20% of investments and so on.
Now that we understand the 80/20 rule, how can we use it to our advantage? In general, the rule can help you determine what the vital 20% of your project is so you can focus time and resources on the most valuable portion of the final product.
Devoting your attention to the most profitable parts of your project is an excellent way to maximise your return on investment. Not only are you wasting less time and effort overall, you’re ensuring the most fruitful elements of the project are able to flourish quicker.
In software development, this means prioritising the 20% of functionality that 80% of your users will definitely use. The lesser used features can be worked on later, but pushing for development of that vital 20% will generate the most profit as users respond positively to the essential features they enjoy most.
There’s always an element of risk in elevating what seems like a minor portion of your project and devoting a majority of resources to it, but the 80/20 rule is widely accepted for good reason. Just remember that while the vital 20% is important, the other 80% still requires quality work for a complete project. The 80/20 rule is not a strict guideline or magic formula – it’s just a way of thinking.
Many aspects of software development can benefit from the 80/20 rule, so here are some ways it can be applied throughout your project.
The rule can be used to balance the priority of your project overall. If you determine the vital 20% of tasks to be completed and contribute 80% of your development time towards them, you’ll benefit from the faster milestones, greater sense of achievement and higher recognition of getting those key tasks completed sooner.
If 80% of users will only be interested in 20% of functionality, then it makes sense to focus your development time on building up the 20% of features that will definitely be used. It can be tricky to understand without the benefit of hindsight, but the better your analytics are for figuring out those vital parts, the less time your team will waste on features that might rarely be used at all.
The 80/20 rule applies to coding as well, as we mentioned 20% of the features are use by 80% of the users, but during the coding 80% of the most widely used features being developed with only 20% of the overall coding effort. The other 80% of coding effort is easily lost to trivial features that have little to no impact on the final product, so it’s wise to try and reverse this result as best as you can.
UX design in software development is all about use cases, and 80% of use cases can be achieved using 20% of the overall interface. Rather than trying to perfect every element of the design, start by perfecting the 20% of the UX that users will be spending all of their time on.
Similar to the UX design, the 80/20 rule tells us that 80% of use cases only experience 20% of bugs and errors. The majority of bugs are hidden in the rarely used corners of the software, nowhere near as important as the 20% that users will most likely encounter using the software. QA testing should be prioritised on finding and removing the pesky 20% of common bugs.
We’re no strangers to the 80/20 rule and its importance in software development, so contact iVersion for any web development queries or services today!
Get the Right People to Manage your IT
Sign Up and Stay Informed