The importance of the 80/20 Principle

20% of what you do today will be responsible for 80% of the day’s results. 20% of a company’s clients will be yield 80% of the company’s revenue. I can imagine that almost everyone is familiar with the 80/20 Principle, also known as the Pareto Principle. Pareto was an Italian economist who discovered an economic pattern: roughly 80% of the world’s wealth was in the hands of 20% of the people.

This imbalance, as it turns out, reveals itself not only in money, but in virtually any situation where there exists a relationship between input and output or cause and effect. And that’s just about everything. The imbalance is not necessarily 80/20. It can be 70/30 or 90/10. The point is that there is a significant imbalance.

It’s logical, when you think about it. Not *all* of what you do can possibly have the same effect on an outcome. Not *every* design will get the same amount of attention. In a 10-slide presentation, perhaps two or three slides will have the most impact. A site we just finished has several nice features, but only one or two of these will set it apart from similar sites. We paid the most attention to these features.

As a web designer, developer, or whatever it is you do, it’s a good idea to go into 80/20 mode at several points during your project. What are you doing right now? Is it part of the important 20% or the trivial 80%? Is that button really a show-stopper? The 80% is not bad, it’s just not as important. Utilizing the 80/20 Principle can help you set the right priorities. Short on time? Do 20% stuff. It will have the most effect.

Think about it… How much of Microsoft Word do you *really* use, Or any app for that matter?

Recommended reading: The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch. This book is a must have. Richard really goes geekily in-depth. The 80/20 Individual is also quite good, but you should really like the subject if you decide to read both.