If you want to order a pizza and don’t want just one of the regular pizza’s on the menu, you can of course build your own pizza. At that moment, things will get really complicated. If you just choose a couple of toppings, it is likely that your pizza is not special at all: It’s just a variation on one of the pizzas on the menu. Then you get aware that actually someone profoundly thought about the pizza’s on the menu and configured the pizza’s really in a smart and logical way already.
Pizza syndrome is a metaphor that I use to describe the phenomenon when you want to “order” an extraordinary web product.
But if you insist to not order a regular pizza, one thing you can do is add a lot of toppings on your pizza. It is a sure way that your pizza is really unique and one-off. At the other hand, you are also sure that it is uneatable. It is not tasteful to add anchovies, salmon and shrimps combined with brie, bacon, chicken and spinach.
The paradoxical psychological phenomenon is that when the price is a factor, suddenly people will think different about this issue. If you have a coupon in your hand with something like "Build Your Own Pizza: Any pizza, any size, any toppings for fixed €10". Then there is an urge to get the maximum out of it in stead of ordering a really good pizza. This also applies to the quantity: according to some research, individual taste ratings of pizza tended to be inversely related to how much is consumed.
Same thing happens with web development. The problems with ordering a pizza will be limited because most people have experience with eating a pizza and are able to conceptualize the consequences. Most clients don't have a lot of experience with web development and are unable to foresee the effects of their choices and will insist to add as much features as possible. At the same time, they will have a nice feeling during the development because they negotiated the maximum out of it.
Maximizing the amount of features of an application is the same thing as adding as much toppings to your pizza or sugar to your coffee as possible. It will not make it tastier. A good cook knows the exact balance of ingredients to make something really delicious and he doesn't do that by adding as much as possible of each.
Spray & pray
Finding a unique market and product combination is the next level of the challenge. Developing only a excellent product is not enough. There must be a perfect match between the product and the demand for it. Sometimes it is possible to detect an unfulfilled need and design a product to accommodate the necessity. It can also be possible to launch a product and it generates a need.
There is not a universal formula to generate an ingenious product idea. It can be luck, precise analysis or serendipity to come up with it.
Finding the right product/market combination can be compared to finding that annoying mosquito in the middle of the night. If you have really little amount of insecticide spray, the chances that you will kill it will be reduced by the number of rooms that you spray in your house. Following the sound and smacking it on his head is much more effective and has the least amount of disadvantages.
Doing random things without any boundaries is the least probable method to be successful. As a client of a web development project adding as much as possible random features is a sure way to get a unsuccessful product. Each choice is a trade off. By adding 2 features instead of 1, you didn't negotiated 1 extra feature for free. You actually negotiated that 1 feature will get half as good as it might be possible. By diluting each feature, you need to pray more that you did the right trade off. By focusing to a tight scope, it is much easier to adjust and transform your product to find the right combination because there are less variables.
More to read
If you don't believe me or want a more scientific explanation from a computer science perspective, you can read Donald Knuth about "If you optimize everything, you will always be unhappy." From management point of view what I actually tried to explain is lean manufacturing in a funny an accessible way. You can also watch really cool video's about lean manufacturing. It is also useful to read the philosophy of Deming to understand where it all comes from.