I love Easter eggs — both the candy-filled and the digital kind. One has little bites of sweet that remind us of springtime and childhood. The other involves bytes of code that were snuck into software or a website to surprise and delight the user.
For many 20- and 30-somethings, our first digital Easter egg was the Konami Code. Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start. A Japanese programmer implemented it in the 1986 NES game Gradius to help him beat the game more easily during testing. One problem — he forgot to take it out before the game launched.
A legend in nerd history was born.
Gamers soon caught on, and other games started intentionally sneaking the code in. Flash-forward 30 years, Family Guy references the Konami code, and everyone from Google to Wikipedia to this shop hide Easter eggs in their software and websites.
Yes, hidden features can play an important role in great digital products. However, we’re missing something huge.
Easter eggs were an afterthought in the games we grew up loving. At their core, these were simply great games. So often we focus on how many features we can pile on and inside jokes we can stick in that we lose sight of our core purpose: to make great products.
People are attracted to great digital products like they are to great people and great teams. Who can blame them? People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Both at startups and on the agency side, strong ideas frequently get bloated with unnecessary features. Worse, people get distracted by title-envy, politics, who got VC-funded, et al. It all leads to one thing: We lose focus of our core mission. What is the minimum viable product? The minimum to be awesome?
Three hundred fifty-eight years ago, Blaise Pascal said (roughly), "I would have written you a shorter letter, but I did not have time."
Just as Pascal implied about concise writing, crafting great digital takes time. It takes great intentionality. It’s hard.
Let’s focus our energy on crafting ideas into bold, original statements that entertain and provide utility. Let’s never be afraid to iterate into something better. Let’s focus our UX, design and copy on beauty, simplicity, clarity and engaging users. Let’s focus our code on prototyping, staying DRY ("Don’t repeat yourself") and above all — working. Then, once we have an awesome, concise digital product, let’s consider sweet, delightful little Easter eggs. And, have a well-deserved drink.
Jesse Wright is a digital producer at The Martin Agency.