There are many advices teaching how you should make a project from idea to launch. They are covered extensively in books like Lean Startup or Start Small, Stay Small. “Keep it simple”. “Talk to your customers”. “Validate your assumptions”.
Let’s make a recap of those as synthetically as possible 🎉
Most of the advices you read will sound like common sense and you may feel like you don’t need them, because they are too obvious. But they are not. You will probably fall in many of the traps so many people already fell in before you. When you feel something is not going well when building your product, take a step back and apply the following advices.
Remember the Dunning–Kruger effect, a cognitive bias that gives people too much confidence in a domain they are new in. Don’t fall for this one and you will have a good start!
Don’t fear copy. People are curious and eager to see what you will produce as an individual. There is a chance that a couple of people already thought of your idea, but what really counts is how you execute it concretely. Besides, sharing your idea publicly creates a social commitment that will motivate you even more to realize that idea.
Don’t immediately start building the first thing that looks good in your mind. This is valid for all the stages of a product creation, never trust your own opinion without checking it first with the people you are building this product for.
Keep your product value proposition as simple as possible; focus on one thing that it should accomplish well as it will help you communicate more clearly.
When people read that they should talk to their potential customers in Lean Startup they immediately agree with the concept but usually do it the wrong way. You should talk to your potential users, so your family, friends or colleagues don’t count (except if they are part of your market), you should not take their support for a customer interest confirmation.
Since most people love to give their opinions, you should seriously prepare yourself before talking to them. I warmly recommend the book The Mom Test which specifically treats of seamless potential users interviews. Your goal is to confirm that the problem you are trying to solve exists, not that people are interested in your solution upfront. At first your need to validate the problem, not your solution.
Since your product should be made to solve one problem, every action you do should focus primarily on solving that problem. When building an app that locates ice cream shops around you, the first thing to do is develop something that locates ice cream shops around you, period. Only then you can find your app a name, add user profiles, a nice landing page and so on.
Use already existing patterns so you don’t reinvent the wheel. Designing a website? Follow Refactoring UI advices. Having troubles with the UX of your app? Apply UI patterns rules. Need basic CSS? Use Bootstrap.
Not only will it allow you to move faster to the next step, but also give you a deep feeling of progression. Don’t start to build administration pages if you don’t have a working app solving your user’s problems first. Keep focusing on meaningful work.
You are a specialist in your domain so you may be unsatisfied with your simple product and feel the need to do more. Don’t add stuff that is not really needed. Play the following game: for each part of your product ask yourself “is this helping me to [insert your product purpose]?”, if not or you are not sure, remove it. Not much left, right? That’s your product.
It seems that perfection is attained, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away.
– Antoine de Saint Exupéry
Talk about your product while you build it. You can ask for feedback to people interested in the product, designers, developers or anybody working in your product domain. They will certainly give you valuable insights and help you spot flaws that could seem obvious for them but escaped your attention.
Having external people inputs on your work helps you be more objective. If you have a blog or a Twitter account, share work in progress pictures, talk about your doubts and ask for feedback. Some tools like Google Drive or Figma let you share your work live and get real time comments, us them. Join developers and product makers communities to share your progress regularly, like WIP or Maker’s kitchen.
If you have to realize that your idea was not as good as you expected, do it fast. The sooner you build and release a project, the sooner you will confront it to the real world. If you spend more than a month on your project it usually means that you spent energy in the wrong things, such as a nice design from the beginning, a fancy landing page, full authentication with 2 or 3 providers, etc. Keep short deadlines.
If you spend time with other builders you probably already heard some things like:
I said all of those things too. This is both caused by a loss of interest and the fear of release. It means that those people spent too much time on a project that was not confronted to reality.
Once the building thrill is gone and time comes for release most people give up. If this happens, just take a couple of hours to make your product look nice and publish it. Even if it is not perfect at least will you put something on the market. Not so many people could do that!
If nobody is interested at your product, it’s ok. Now you are glad you did not spend months on that product (you did not, did you? Next time don’t) and you have matter to analyse why it failed, because there is a rational reason. You need to find it before moving to your next idea without making the same mistakes. You can not learn without practice. Next time you will be better prepared.
You need to try it. All those advices are great and make sense, but nothing replaces experience. Find interest in exploring all the processes involved in product creation.
To sum up: focus on real value and accept imperfection 🤗